The Road Wrongly Taken

I’ve been busy working on the sixth book in the series, A Dragon’s Guide to Destiny. Early on in the writing journey, I started running into difficulties in figuring out what to write next.

I write without the safety net of a detailed outline. Outlines work for many authors; when I try to use one, I end up with a crowd of angry characters telling me I’ve got it all wrong. Because of that, I let the characters run the show from the beginning and find out what the story is about while I write.

Book 6, though, didn’t seem to be telling me anything. The characters were silent. The story was dull. And I kept on writing.

That was my mistake. I wrote on and on, much as someone drives down a wrong road, hoping that by some miracle it will turn out right. Sometimes it actually does, but the odds don’t favor this result, and it wasn’t working for me.

Finally, my frustration grew to the point where I had to pull over to the side of the writing road and figure out what to do. I stopped, looked at what I’d written, and discovered I’d somehow squeezed an entire plot into about 6,000 words. I also realized that I’d left out the viewpoints of characters whose inner thoughts needed to be in the story and that I hadn’t taken the time to get to know some new characters.

As in Writing, so in Life

I rearranged my thinking, moved some scenes around, and thought about writing from the viewpoints of the neglected and the new characters. Almost immediately, the story began to unfold with greater depth. I was no longer zipping down the authorial highway but stopping to appreciate the view.

Having solved that problem, I paused to reflect on why I’d driven so far out of my way. The answer was that I’d already written X number of words, and I was committed to them—whether or not they were any good.

I’ve lived parts of my life like that, making bad decisions that I tried to defend because I’d invested time and possibly money into them, because accepting the phrase “cutting your losses” meant admitting that I was wrong.

Why I Fear Being Wrong

It’s humiliating. Most of us have experienced giving the wrong answer in school. The other kids laughed (and when they were wrong, we heartless creatures laughed just as much), and the teacher gave us a very unpleasant look. So who wants to let their wrongness be known, even to themselves?

It’s frightening. If I made one wrong choice, who’s to say I won’t make another. Maybe I’m operating with a flawed thinking system. Maybe it’s hopeless.

I’d rather pretend I know what I’m doing than be sure I don’t. Sometimes the illusion of safety seems almost as good as the real thing.

I’ve learned a lot from that frustrating writing experience. Now I look at situations in life that cause equal frustration and examine their elements carefully to see if a stubbornly wrong-headed conviction is steering me in the wrong direction.

And the book is moving forward.