A compass is designed to help you determine what direction you’re headed. It can be a helpful tool, but it is only ever a guide, not a detailed plan of where you are obliged to go. For this reason, I find the compass to be an extremely helpful writing analogy:
#1. Direction as guide not plan:
Some writers meticulously outline and plan their novels. This system works very well for them, and they write wonderful stories in this fashion. While I definitely need to outline, and plan the course of my stories, I also like to leave plenty of room for changes. I also tend to be careful when I’m writing about ‘setting ideas in stone’ in my mind, because it makes it considerably harder to alter plot or characters when I’ve been definitive about something before the story has really taken shape. I allow my outline and basic story map to serve only as a guide.
#2. Course correction:
If something isn’t working, it is very easy to make a simple course correction. On a compass, instead of heading due north, you could alter your path slightly by turning to the Northwest, and you can do the same in writing, by changing something small, and making slight alterations, that enhance your story in a tangible way.
#3. Multiple Directions:
Alternatively, you can completely change the course of your story by doing a complete 180, and going in the opposite direction. The ability to change the entire direction of your story is your prerogative as the writer, and knowing that you wield this power is important. Sometimes a story requires a radical reversal, and knowing that the outline is only a guide facilitates important changes in your writing.
How do you manage changes in your story? Tell me in the comments below!
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