Writing a book is like driving to a place you’ve never been before.
You have a map that plans the trip, telling you where to go and what to do. You know you’re starting at Point A and somehow you know you’ll end up at Point B. The beginning part of the journey is easy enough. In fact, once you pull out of the driveway you think, “Yeah! I got this! This is a piece of cake!”
That is until you come to some construction on the highway you were supposed to take and the road is blocked. You can try to go through it, but if you do, your trip is going to get messy (and you may just get a flat tire.)
There are two choices in front of you: trudge along on the (original) intended path-and hope you make it through the mess without a scratch-or take a new turn and wing it, hoping you’ll somehow end up at that Point B destination without getting lost.
This is the predicament I’m in at the moment while finishing the revisions on my first novel. I had a map (yeah…that didn’t work out so good), but I was familiar enough with the route I was taking in the story to think, “Yeah! This is going to work!” And then I hit a road block. Well, creative block, actually. And even though my first, second, and third novels in the series are still in good order, I have no clue how I’m going to get to my destination-the last book in the series.
As someone who really (stress: really) likes to plan, this part of the writing journey has been frustrating and mentally painful. I like to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. I don’t want to be surprised because…well, I’m the author, darn it. I’m writing this story and out of all the people who will ever read it, I should know how it’s going to end up.
But writing is never really that easy, is it?
I used to travel a lot at my old job. I lived off of maps and had to use them constantly to be able to find where I needed to go. But often times, during my travels, I’d still get lost (thank you, closed roads and construction lanes.) I’d have to find another route to my destination. Sometimes these routes would be ugly and slow, but every so often the routes would take me to beautiful places that I would be unaware of had the road block not been there.
I think this is what writing a story is like. We have our plans. We know where we want to go. But when we get that creative block-or when the plan doesn’t work out-we have to take a detour. Sometimes the alternate route isn’t very comfortable and we have to trudge through it to get to our destination. Other times the alternate route is better than what we had before. It’s more exciting, it’s more scenic, it’s more peaceful. There are also those times when no matter what route we take, it’s a bad one, and we have to scrap the trip altogether.
Writing, like driving, can have its ups and downs. Some days we’re cruising with ease and other days we’re hitting traffic, construction, and potholes. But whatever the road blocks we come across, they always come with a purpose. They may take the story in a new direction. They may surprise the author (and the readers) in the changes that were made. They may make a story better than what was there before. They may also take a bad story and exchange it for a good one.
So as I’m coming across this road block and thinking of an alternate route, I can’t help but wonder of where it’ll take my story next. (I just hope it’s not full of potholes-I mean, plot holes.)