When the story veers off course–and midweek ROW80 check-in

Sometimes, the words flow like raindrops in a summer downpour. And then, that downpour is immediately followed by a dry spell.

I know the reason: I realized late last week as I sat down to write that I was headed in the wrong direction in my WIP. Part of me wanted to keep going, but that seems a bit like driving 15 miles in the wrong direction on the interstate because I took a wrong turn. No, the best thing to do is to pull over, figure out where I went wrong, retrace my steps, and get the story back on track.

And this despite the fact that I have an outline. I see now that part of the problem is that there are holes in the outline—why would the villain do X instead of Y, when Y is his normal modus operandi? How will his sudden change bring the heroine face to face with her greatest fears, and what’s the best way to show that on the page? What will she learn about herself and how will she change as a result?

So the beginning of this week hasn’t led to much writing, mostly just slogging through the story trying to identify the moment things veered off course and set them back on the correct path. Today, I have a new scene planned out that should help with that. This week is less about word count and more about re-envisioning some of my scenes—even though I’m so close to the end of this story I can feel it, and I really want to race toward The End.

Still, the beginning of the week hasn’t been completely unproductive. I went to a concert Monday night, and the music, a mix of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” with some Bach and Tchaikovsky thrown in, was the perfect backdrop for writing inspiration to strike. I began picturing scenes from a short story and, by the end of the performance, not only was I swept away by the music (the performance was fantastic!), but I also had a clearly formed idea for that story in my head.

I spent part of Tuesday jotting down notes and writing a brief synopsis for that story, a short but stinging sequel to the story I’m currently working on. 🙂

I also decided to go back and do Barbara Samuel’s Voice Worksheet again. I attended her voice workshop a couple years ago at a writing conference, and it provided great insight into my writing. It’s been a while since I’ve done any voice exercises, so I decided to give the worksheet a go. It was definitely worth revisiting.

ROW80 midweek check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Finish a draft of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic”: 2,700 to 3,000 words per week. Behind on this goal, since I’m revising instead of adding to the word count.

2.) Read to hone my craft: Making progress on this front.

3.) Blog at least two times a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays: On track to meet this goal.

4.) Check in on Twitter daily and on WANA Tribe at least once/week. On track to meet this goal.

5.) Comment on 5-6 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. On track so far.

6.) Super-secret project: Write two articles/posts each week for that project. No progress yet this week.

A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80), founded by author Kait Nolan, is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Do you ever do any writing exercises when you’re struggling with a WIP or need a change of pace? Which are your favorites?

Do you ever realize your WIP is heading in the wrong direction? If so, how do you get your story back on track?

And how are your goals coming along this week?

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12 thoughts on “When the story veers off course–and midweek ROW80 check-in

  1. I can totally sympathize with needing to re-evaluate when plot holes get the better of you! That too is writing, even if it doesn’t result in new words.

    Congrats on all the goals you did manage to meet!

    • Yeah, I think it happens to all of us, even when we plan and plan. I’m back on track today, and the scene I wrote to replace one of the ones that wasn’t working is so much better.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Ruth! Have a great day. 🙂

  2. Last project something went wrong in, I just wrote it out until I finished. I figured following the wrong turn to the end might reveal some useful things. Took 4 completely different drafts, but I was very happy with the end product and learned lots from all those mistakes. Of course, that was a 10k length project, not a full novel length thing. I probably wouldn’t do that with a novel.

    • True, our missteps and wrong turns can teach us something new about our story, our characters, and our world. I’ve definitely written scenes that, when I reread them, didn’t serve a purpose in the plot but revealed something about my characters that helped me understand them better.

      In this particular case, I’m glad I went back and did the course correction. I think the new scenes are much stronger. I just took the ones I felt were “off” and put them in my outtakes files, so I might still pull some of that writing–bits of description, detail, world-building, or a couple lines of dialogue, for example–into the final draft.

      Thanks for stopping by, Gloria! 🙂

  3. I’m getting back into journaling with tarot and hope that will give me that change of pace without completely steering me off course. Good luck working through the holes and getting the story back on track.

    • Holly Lisle had a fascinating Tarot exercise where you pull a card for each character, write and reflect on how that card influences your understanding of each character and their interactions. Nice reminder! Thank you.

    • I think that’s a great idea. I knew another writer who was tracing the hero’s journey through the major arcane on her blog at one point. I love reading tarot cards or simply meditating on the different cards and their meanings. I haven’t tried journaling about them, though. That’s a great idea. Thanks, Raelyn!

  4. Thank you, Denise, for that link to the Voice workshop (I’m going to try it), as well as for writing about how you tackled that plot slide. Sometimes we let the plot just take us where it wants to go; sometimes we want to wrestle that plot to a predetermined outline. Your analytical approach here suggests you come away with a better understanding of story, characters, and theme — and how to strengthen the story. Great progress!

    • You’re welcome, Beth. I hope you find the voice worksheet as helpful as I did.

      Yes, I think the best course of action is somewhere in the middle: We have to balance allowing our stories to grow and evolve with making sure each scene has a purpose, turning points, and character development. Thanks!

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