Rhobin Courtright set her group this topic: “What unique situations have occurred in the writing process of any of your novels? Perhaps, but not limited to things like where what you planned changed, or the direction you thought the story was on deviated or transmuted?”
Rhobin, I would say that such situations are the rule rather than the exception, and I suspect this is the case for anyone who doesn’t write in a straightjacket. Even if you have a well-developed plot and stick with it, you’ll repeatedly come across situations where a new person walks onto the stage, or the need for a new scene becomes obvious, or one of the characters says something that turns the writer’s preconceptions on their head.
That’s terrifying. Have you ever seen an upside-down preconception?
I carefully plotted the stories of the Ehvelen. Having designed the events of a year during which Heather, my little heroine, was kidnapped, then escaped with her tiny son, I started writing.
Oops. Both the Ehvelen, and their attackers, the Doshi, had utterly different cultures from you and me. I didn’t want to fill the book with boring lectures. A standard trick is to have the explanations within dialogue, interspersed with action. So, I needed a person for Heather to have the conversations with. His entry completely changed — and thoroughly improved — the entire series.
When writing the next novel, Sleeper, Awake, I allowed the people living inside my computer to direct the story, so I was surprised every second page. Then we had a beautiful tear-jerker of an ending, and I went to sleep, ready to do a revision before submitting the book to a publisher.
The next morning, I woke, knowing there was the need for one more page. And yes, it does turn the story upside down. If you read this book, you are NOT ALLOWED to go to the ending first, or I’ll magically turn you into a giant squid of the deeps.
Guardian Angel had another problem. It was absolutely necessary for the plot that my lovely little heroine Maraglindi be killed in horrific circumstances. She was going to reincarnate, so I thought promising that would soften the impact. I submitted the book to Sandy Cumming of Writers Exchange E-publishing, but she rejected it, pointing out that the ending was completely unacceptable. I agreed with her explanation.
I put the book away, and wrote other things. Then I fell for an Amazon con game. Amazon UK run an annual contest. Supposedly, if you self-publish via KDP, you can enter and maybe win a big prize. Only, the contest is organised so you can only win if you live in Britain. It is widely advertised elsewhere to get people to use KDP.
OK, I had a few weeks to transform Guardian Angel into a story Sandy would approve of. I decided on a new ending, nine months later: the moment the same Spirit reincarnated. This gave me lots of joyful, exciting writing, which has led to a great deal of enjoyable reading. The story has significantly improved.
After a one year of penance on Amazon, I have withdrawn the book. It’s still available from me privately, while I am seeking a publisher for it.
Final case study is the Doom Healer series. As my friends know, I’ve been working on it on and off since 2015. At the start, all I had was two teenagers: Bill, who was being bullied, the other Grater, his rescuer. Then an alien kidnapped Bill. I let the story take me where it wanted to go. To my immense surprise, the alien was revealed as being benevolent, not at all the nasty invader I initially thought — and Bill turned out to be the reincarnation of various exceptional people: King David, Socrates, Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus. Yes. I have the Second Coming in my computer, and he is going to challenge Harry Potter, hopefully not after 43 rejections from publishers, like Harry was.
Please comment below. If you like this post, please share it on your social media thingies. Then, do yourself a favour and visit these other dancers in Rhobin’s Rounds: