Saturday, August 24, 2019

When your project goes off the rails

I once thought I'd put together a cookbook of my all my important low carb recipes. I started gathering them up. I began outllining it. I began pouring through each recipe to ensure they were complete. Especially the ingredients. One has to include all the ingredients.

I never did finish the cookbook. I got sidetracked. I imagined what would happen if a young chef decided to, oh wait, that's my next book. Can't give it away. The point is, often times when writing, no matter how focused I am, I end up in Paris instead of New York. My character ages 20 years in a day. My dark suspense becomes a light-hearted caper. Because all good intentions aside, my mind simply doesn't work in an orderly fashion. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I saw a blog post yesterday, I don't remember the exact title, but I do remember the words 33 rules. So I didn't read it. Because anything that offers 33 rules is a non-starter for me. I'll accept a rule or two. Maybe five. But if you need 33 rules to accomplish anything, then in my view you'll be spinning around in a hamster cage for years before finishing anything. I do believe many rules were made to be broken. Rules. Not laws. I'm not a big fan of law breaking.

I'm about as fond of rules as I am of lists. I do not like lists. My husband likes lists. Particularly when he's at the grocery store. I am a browser. He has the ability to simply maneuver through the store grabbing each item on the list without any stray items landing in the basket. While he's playing Guy's Grocery Games, I'm meandering through the store, wondering why the 'simply natural' pickles have exactly the same ingredients as the ordinary pickles. Exactly. And they are the same brand. My advertising brain screams at me that this is a marketing trick. So I spend a few minutes pondering and shaking my head. This is how he finds  me. Standing there like Lady Justice balancing two equal but unequal pickle jars in my hands.

Then there are the step by step blogs. Imagine if wikihow for writing included every possible list and rule and step. It would look like the world's most complex decision tree.

You see the point don't you? You can learn to be a better writer. You can study different ways to develop your character or plot. You can learn to craft a better story. But the essence of a good novel is creativity. So if midway through chapter 3 I decide Maybelle is better off as an urbanite than a ranchhand, so be it. She's moving to the city. Wait, go back, she grew up in the city. There is no ranch. She can't even ride a horse. Her name isn't Maybelle.

Rules and steps and lists, for me, are true buzz killers. Everyone of course is different.

Perhaps if you are like me, you go off track every so often. I have 20 or more unfinished projects. They are all worthy. They are all Stories Interrupted. Unfinished symphonies. Dreams waiting in the wings.

I know, first rule, finish what you've started. I guess step one would be to make a list?

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