When Your Novel Takes the Steering Wheel

You’ve discovered your greatest idea, worthy of molding into a novel; you’ve named the characters and created an outline; you think you know exactly how things will begin and end, and maybe you even know about all those twists and turns that make up the middle – the bulk of the story, all the really good stuff.

But let’s face it – who really knows exactly where their story will end up? I suppose there are a few, but the majority of writers would say that at some point, their characters took the wheel and made a left when the author had their turn right all planned out.

I began this novel with a lazy version of an outline, which really just consists of the names of the two main characters, their ages, and a measly list of background information. To be honest, it was more to prevent contradicting myself while this thing grows. After all, it’s pretty intimidating to be 100 pages in and about to mention a name, an age, or a date and have to make sure you get it right the second time around. It’s a lot to keep track of. If this thing ever goes to print, I’d hate to get bashed in a review because Angel’s mother died in 1965 in chapter one, but 1967 in chapter 23. Maybe the cream-of-the-crop writers will scoff at my concerns, and maybe it’s just me – but I have a horrible memory for tiny things like numbers, so I have to keep careful watch.

Anyway, as I was typing away last night my novel suddenly whispered in my ear, and told me to go somewhere I hadn’t planned on. Hearing about this whole “book writes itself” thing from a few writing professors in college, I decided to listen to that little voice and let the action swerve a little bit and possibly make an illegal turn.

The result: a little piece of creativity that I am very proud of. There is plenty of editing to be done, of course, but I was left with an interesting twist in the story line – just when I was getting scared that things might be getting boring – that I think others may enjoy, some day.

Once again, NaNoWriMo has been nothing but a huge help to me as a writer. My motivation to write is through the roof, and I’ve managed to push through even the worst of days, when I feel that my creative well has dried up. While my word count is a tiny bit behind (I’m trying not to beat myself up; some days in my life outside of writing have been busier than others), I’ve still managed to reach 103 pages of a novel. It’s rough, but it’s there. Woo hoo!!

How is NaNoWriMo going for everyone else who is participating?

As for those characters who have kicked you out of the driver’s seat: has anyone else experienced this? How did it affect your novel?

I just thought this bookmark was hilarious. Enjoy


Filed under Writing

11 responses to “When Your Novel Takes the Steering Wheel

  1. You know, I have easily written 4-5 times as many words for my blog as I have for my novel. In 1/16th the time. And the reason is that the blog has no boundaries, no rules, and can go in any direction I want it to, or it wants to. So listen to that little voice, and do what it tells you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all this, it’s that when you’re writing something, you are really taking dictation from your inner voice. (Or voices!)

  2. very provocative NM, i am almost always kicked out of the “drivers seat”…that’s the most fun about writing…wondering where it’s gonna lead you and trusting it/they/ will take you to a way more interesting place than you ever dreamed of going. i’ve come to understand that as long as the road is interesting it doesn’t really much matter where it goes, or in what direction. i’m also not sure that there are any hard and fast rules to follow i.e. why do characters need names? must a plot proceed forward? Samuel Beckett said he could tear up all his plays into little pieces, toss them up in the air, and whatever order he picked them up in would be as good as the original order. it’s always good to know the “rules” the “scales”. but then breaking those “rules”, to me anyway, yields the most interesting work. that, for what it’s worth, is my 2 cents re writing.

    • Thank you for the reply, Tony. I agree – why should there be any sort of “rules” in writing? I’ve seen writers do all kinds of whacky things, and the end result is often times unique and interesting.

  3. wordsfallfrommyeyes

    I love the bookmark too 🙂 Hey, I’ve dropped by because of Barkinginthedark. I see you’re another NaNoWriMo. I seriously considered doing that, I did I did, but just wasn’t sure I could write EVERY day. So I admire you! This was a fun read 🙂 I enjoyed it.

    I absolutely agree a book writes itself at times. You start, it finishes.

    • Thank you for visiting!! And thank you for the feedback. 🙂 I’ve slipped up once or twice this month, when other tasks at hand gave me limited time to write; there’s been two days so far where I haven’t written at all, but I try not to beat myself up too bad. Sometimes other things have to be done. Regardless, the experience has been inspirational. Give it a try next year! 🙂

  4. I did the same thing. I started with one plot point, one main character (that turned into three), and that’s it. I’ve never written any lengthy piece of fiction before, and I must say, it’s Fun! I’m letting the characters do anything they please, knowing that I can reign them in any time I want with a little rewriting. But for now, I’m getting a considerable amount of words on the page for the first time in my life! *My characters have better ideas than I do, anyway…*

  5. The physical world has gotten in my way lately, so my novel is still short story length. But I do know what you mean about the story dictating turns you didn’t see coming. That happens to me a lot with short stories and even micro stories. I’m always grateful when the characters know more than I do.

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