Literary Off-Roading

Yesterday, I resumed work on the first of a series of novellas. I had around 4K already banked, and I’m shooting (agressively) to have three 25,000 word novellas drafted by January. It’s about the speed that I wrote Hexomancy in April/May, with the added challenge of being three stories instead of one (though they are the same series, and follow sequentially).

That’s the context. Here’s the blog-worthy thing:

Today, I went massively off-plan. Like, ‘oh, the main guest star is this character, not that character!’ off-book, including creating a whole different backstory for that guest, which then called for completely re-writing Act Three to suit the new character.

That’s…scary, to be honest. I loved the new approach, and I think it is very promising. Generally, when my subconscious suggests an alternative plot approach or lobbies to promote a character from secondary character to guest-star, or extra to secondary, I try to listen. I’m generally a very conscious writer – I think ‘What makes sense to happen here?’ or ‘How should this work?’ and then answer that question for myself. I don’t often rely on ‘inspiration’ to come along and deliver a story idea while I’m pounding the keys.

So when inspiration comes along, I take those gifts very seriously, because it generally means that my brain has figured out how to tell the story in an even cooler fashion, and that I should listen, using my conscious skills to incorporate the idea given to me by my unconscious.

I do this all the time, in little ways. Even with my mostly-outlining style, I try to leave room for my subconscious to contribute – set dressing (both physical and worldbuilding nuggets), character inflection, and more.

For me, character voice almost always has to emerge in the writing. I blame my RPG background – just like when I’m gaming, I have to inhabit characters for a while, spend time with thm, before I can really lock down their voice.

I think the change will make the story stronger, but it does mean that four days into drafting, I now need to re-outline the rest of the story (I’m at about the 35-40% mark), which involves completely re-working the plan for the back half of Act Two and all of Act Three.

If this were a novel, I’d probably be in more trouble, going off-book in a major way only 9,000 words in. But for a novella, I think I’ll do fine. And if it goes poorly, I’ll only have to fix a 25,000 word chunk of story, as opposed to 100,000 words.

What will this big change lead to? Only time, and more writing, will tell.

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