To Open Today, or Wait Until Tomorrow... THAT is the Question

Saturday, December 24, 2016
When I was growing up, my family started the tradition of choosing just one gift to open on Christmas Eve... the rest of the presents had to wait until the next morning.

It was a dilemma. I loved surprises--still do--so whatever I opened on the 24th lessened the surprise awaiting me in the morning.

The element of surprise (along with the hunt for gift boxes so I can finish wrapping)  made me think of writing... and what surprises (and obstacles) we face as writers.

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It's amazing--every time it happens--when I get surprised as a writer. For example, my latest two big projects both had aha moments as I was working on them.

In my adult manuscript, I had the ending for over a year. Set in stone. All plotted out.

Then the characters swooshed in and took over. They evolved during the course of the story, and they demanded the ending evolve as well. I had no choice but to listen.

Another surprise:  my most recent WIP for children began as an informational piece. A nonfiction book. I had the beginning down, proud of the descriptive language, the rich images. When I shared it with a writing critique group, one of the writers, a middle-school language arts teacher, said, "I think this story needs to be told by a kid. It would make readers relate."

Duh. Of course. So a nonfiction piece (surprise!) morphed into historical fiction.

And when I'm trying to cram a present into a too-small box 'cause that's the only box I have, I think about the problem I had during the last week of NaNoWriMo. I was stuck.

The story had flowed easily. I was building the story towards the climax. The characters, the plot, the dialogue--it was almost effortless.

But when I got to the build-up to the horrific events (and they were horrible), I felt bored, like I was just going through the motions. Oh, I was moving things along with vignettes, but I knew it was going to need serious revision later on.

And then it hit me. I had infused so much of the main character's life into the story earlier, and now it was if all I was doing was listing events, one scene at a time. When I focused back on the main character and kept him in mind, my writing came easier.

Don't try to cram plot events into your story. Make sure there's enough room for them. If you need some bubble wrap, some "cushioning," try remembering what the heart of your story is...

... and repackage that part of your story. (And now I'm off to find a bigger box to wrap this pesky gift.)

Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! And may your words flow fast and effortlessly in 2017.


Margo Dill said...

We always opened 1 present on Christmas Eve too and I feel the same way about it that you did. I wanted to see what I got but as I got older I just wanted to wait til Christmas morning!

Marcia Peterson said...

Good job tying in the writing life with holiday gifts :) Have a great Christmas Sioux!

Angela Mackintosh said...

I've been trying to write real life events as fiction because they are too painful, but realized I need to write them as memoir. Duh! Thanks for this post, Sioux, and Merry Christmas! :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I hope there's a few surprises for you under the tree today. Have a wonderful holiday.

Marcia--Thanks. You as well--have a great Christmas.

Angela--I have been toying--very recently--with writing a memoir about the "stuff" (that's the cleaned-up version) that's been painful in my life. Your comment is giving me another nudge. Thanks, and Merry Christmas to YOU.

Renee Roberson said...

I can so relate. Unfortunately, when I wrote my first 60,000-word novel, I let the words flow a little too freely. I had all these storylines and characters that weren't necessary. (In hindsight, it probably would have been a great start to a TV pilot). I ended up cutting half of it and changing the genre from women's fiction to YA. So that was an unwanted surprise, but one that turned out to be for the best. Thankfully I could see that. I like the advice of repackaging things. I think we all need to do more of that to be our most productive.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--It sounds like it might have been a great start to a multiple-season series. I hope your holiday is off to a wonderful start.

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