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Archive for April, 2013

When chapter 1 turns out to have been chapter 3 all along

How many times have I started a piece of writing, only to find that I haven’t started in the right place at all?  Too many times to count, that’s how many.  But now I go with the flow.  If I’ve started in the wrong place, it will become clear eventually, and I can fix it.  I can move sections around.  I can invent a new beginning.  I can construct a whole new plot strand if I need to.

Everything can change – this was one of the best things I learnt from the editing process with The Wishcatchers.  Nothing is fixed in stone.  Story is fluid.  You can catch it in one container and it will be that particular shape.  But equally, you can choose another vessel and it will take another form.  Bits of it will be essentially the same, but bits will be different or even entirely new.  You can take a story and shake it up like a kaleidoscope and make a new picture. The new picture might be better than the old, or it might not, but unless you do the shaking, you will never know.

Or you can get even more radical and take out what you think is a supporting wall and find out that the story stands just as firm without it.  Or again, maybe it really was a supporting wall, and your story collapses.  Even then a new pattern might emerge from the rubble which is twice as good.

To me this is one of the things which makes writing so exciting. But also, scary.  If everything can change, how do you know when to stop shuffling the cards?  How do you decide which kaleidoscope picture is best?  How do you know when a piece of work is finished?  Or at least when to let go and stop tinkering?