Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I Love It When A (Writing) Plan Comes Together

I love it when a plan comes together.
 John “Hannibal” Smith – leader of the A-Team. 

Okay, so maybe I watched a few episodes of the A-Team back in the day. Don’t judge me. I know you watched them too.

When I’m working on a story, there’s no better feeling than when a scene comes together. Miscellaneous plot threads suddenly coalesce into something beautiful. The solution to the plot hole that’s been bothering me for months unexpectedly presents itself. A simple shift in the way I view a scene transforms it from a dull, has-to-be-there-for-the-plot-to-work event into an exciting sequence that carries its own weight and adds to the story.

We writers spend much of our time waiting for these moments. At least I do. It’s those occasional bursts of exhilaration that keep me going during those dark days when I suspect my manuscript should be tossed into the fire. Unfortunately, I never know when these sudden insights are going to strike, so I force myself to sit down in front of the computer and bang away at the keyboard, hour after hour, day after day, waiting for that one aha! moment that improves the story and fires me up for the next round of writing.

So what can we do to help cultivate these sudden insights? Find a CP who isn’t shy about suggesting alternate ways of doing things. And then, even if you’re sure their suggestion couldn’t possibly work, let the idea simmer in your head for awhile. You might be surprised at what develops once your brain is looking at things from another direction.

A couple of years ago, my very first CP, Sheryl (who now does copyediting, BTW), read a chapter of mine where the MC briefly recalled a past event in his life. It was probably only one or two sentences in length, but Sheryl wrote “I want to see this” in the margins and told me I needed to add that event as a separate scene. I was against adding another scene to an already long story, but the comment got me thinking in a new direction and eventually I rewrote the entire chapter to focus around that event. The resulting chapter was vastly superior to the original, but I never would have thought of it if my CP hadn’t made the original suggestion.

For this reason, when I crit someone else’s work, I’m always throwing in suggestions for how the author might do things differently. Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with the way they did it, but the possibility that my suggestion will point the author into new directions always makes it worth doing.

So where do you get most of your aha! moments?


  1. I welcome suggestions like that from my critique partners. I often run my outlines by one of them and his suggestions have led my stories in much better directions.
    Glad you had your aha moment!
    And yes, I watched the A-Team all the time...

    1. Shhhhh..... Don't say that last part out loud. People will look at you strangely!

  2. In the shower. :) Seriously. I also write rambling emails to people. I usually solve the issue by the end, but not always. I send the emails anyway. My editor sometimes gives me suggestions. Sometimes I go talk to the husband unit.

    It's funny, because I never balk at my editor's advice, but often do w/ my CPs. It's true that advice sometimes needs to marinate in our heads.

  3. Yes! My reward for a day that's been a literal pain in my behind, unpacking boxes until I can't stand up straight. Seeing that I did some good by asking to see whatever I wanted you to write makes me feel so much better--at least in my mind. And now you made me want to write again. So much to do, so little time! Besides unpacking, we've got to get a bunch of fruit and nut trees planted before it's too late. Down here, that's March.