When a WIP Goes Rogue

Corporate LadderEvents got intense for Debra Chandler in Corporate Ladder, which took me a bit by surprise, but it gave me the opportunity to see just how strong she is. I’m impressed.

That’s the thing about being a seat-of-the-pants writer: you don’t always know what’s going to happen. Oh, sure, I had a vague idea. In fact, I actually built up to the confrontation between Debra and her nemesis, but I didn’t plan on it taking off in the direction it went. Looking back at it now, I realize there’s no other way it could’ve gone, which leaves me with the dilemma of taking it out, working with it as is, or going back and making some adjustments.

An outliner wouldn’t have dedicated time writing the scene, but would’ve played with it beforehand to know whether it would fit and determine where to go from there. I’m an intuitive writer, an SOTP writer, not an outliner. Under Katie Weiland’s influence, I’ve become a bit of a hybrid, but this means that I’ll sit down with this turn of events and play with it using pen and paper instead of following up on it in the manuscript itself and running the risk I’ll have to take all the work out.

In other words, instead of figuring all this out before I wrote it, like a good outliner would have done, I’ll have to figure out what to do with it now that it’s written.

So what will I take into consideration when I sit with pen in hand? Well, first, I need to consider the location of this event in the book–which is right at the beginning of the second quarter. I’m not at the half-way point yet. By this time, I’m supposed to be moving out of the set-up and sinking my character deeper into the conflicts and the mess she’s in. So on the surface, having this event here is okay.

But, like I said, it’s an intense event. So, the next consideration is, “Can I top this?” and if I can’t top it, then how do I build on it?

When you throw your character into a pit, that should be scary for her. When you start shoveling dirt in, that’s scarier. And when you’ve covered her up to her nose, that’s downright terrifying. It’s your job to keep tossing dirt in, intensifying the conflict and stakes as you go along until you reach the point when your character needs to start working on the resolution to her problems. But have you used a shovel or a backhoe?

If you’re using a backhoe too early in the book–and I may have–you have five alternatives:

1. Take it out entirely, something easier for outliners than for SOTPers. For my WIP, a number of factors have been woven into the story to make this event logical and unavoidable to a certain extent. To take it out would mean going back and pulling the threads leading to it. If I have to, I will. Right now, I’m hoping I don’t have to.

2. Take it out with an eye toward using it later–which means you can keep the threads leading up to it. The risk with this is that it may not make it back in, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When an intuitive writer regains the reins of her characters and events, she may discover the event that stumped her “way back when” wasn’t really a great idea anyway. But then you have to go back and determine what to do with all those loose threads.

3. Adjust it. Either tweak events leading to it so it doesn’t have to be so monumental, or tweak the event itself to lessen its impact so you can top it as you go along.

4. As I mentioned earlier, determine whether you can come up with something bigger for later–top it. If you can, you’re in great shape. If not, see #1.

5. Another I mentioned earlier: work with it, build on it. How does the event affect your character and her situation? Is this something you can use without changing the overall plan you have in mind for your story? Is the effect a good one? If not, see #1. But even if you can build on it, you still may need to top it–and if you can’t, see #1.

Since I wrote this stumbling block before I went to Mom’s last week, I haven’t had a lot of time to figure out what I’m going to do with it. I’m looking at #5, but I’m afraid I’ll have to go to #1. The event I’ve written takes away a lot of the reason Debra does what she does and behaves the way she behaves. Unless I can make the progression along her current path logical in spite of these results, I’ve wrecked my story and have to rip the event out.

This is a hazard of SOTP writing. To me, it’s part of what makes being an intuitive writer fun and challenging, but it can also be frustrating beyond belief. You don’t always know what your characters are going to do or what’s going to happen. Sometimes you’re taken by surprise. You can sum up the five options above into just two: work with it or toss it. Have the gumption to do what’s right for your story. Right now, I’m hoping I do.









About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in Writing, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to When a WIP Goes Rogue

  1. Sounds like a familiar story! Usually, I can find ways to build on it. I’m like you–a bit of a hybrid. Still mostly SOTP, but bringing more and more outlining and structure elements into play. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!!


  2. Harliqueen says:

    Great post and great tips, thanks for sharing 🙂


  3. K.M. Weiland says:

    Sounds like fun! I’m working on my outline for Wayfarer right now, and I’m about at the same place you are – just finished the First Pinch Point, a quarter of the way through the Second Act. I’m having a few of those “Can I top this?” thoughts myself. But that’s a challenge I love!


  4. It will be interesting to see what comes of this shake up, surely something will be dropping into your lap – err, computer. I have done major purging on occasion myself. Hope yours works out one way or the other without too much extra work.


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