Can you see the future?

Or the ending to your story?  I thought I could see it clearly.  So clearly, that four chapters into The Jakarta Pandemic, I decided to write what I thought would be the last chapter, or final conflict of the story.  What a waste of time.  Well, I shouldn’t say a complete waste.  I kept a few elements of the scene for the final draft, and writing in general is rarely a waste, but I took a two-week detour (yes, that’s how long a chapter used to take me…part time) from a solid writing stretch.  I’m glad that a writing genie didn’t appear and laugh at my face as soon as I finished it.  I would have been pissed.

Instead, it took me months to figure out that this chapter just wouldn’t fit into the story as written, which was fine.  Though I remember being a little disappointed, and possibly angry when I took a look at the chapter’s word count.  I learned a valuable lesson from this, and of course, probably reinforced a bad habit.  Let me explain.

The good first:

1.)  I’ll probably never jump ahead and write a complete scene or chapter again.  I’ll still wake up in the middle of the night and take detailed notes about what I might write, but I won’t spend two weeks on a scenic detour again. For those of you who have read The Jakarta Pandemic, or anyone (it won’t spoil the story), I have attached the “detour” so you can see how differently things appeared to me in the beginning.  Alternate ending

2.)  Since this was my first writing endeavor, I experienced something that I had only read about in articles and books about writing craft.  This sounds way more dramatic than it should…sorry.  I got my first, good taste, of a story and characters taking on a life of their own.  Now this may sound cheesy, but I arrived at a point where I could no longer force the characters or storyline exactly where I wanted to go.  It was still going in the cardinal direction I had chosen, but the details were up for grabs.  I no longer knew, with certainty, who would survive the pandemic?  I didn’t know which neighbors would turn out to be allies or enemies.  It was a great feeling.  Not that I had been chained to a structured plot (far from it), but I finally understood what so many other writers have described.  Like experiencing “runner’s high” for the first time, or the “green flash” seen at sunset over a calm, cloudless ocean.

As an aside, I spent two years on board one of our Navy’s finest warships and many, many days at sea…and I can bitterly report that I have never seen this mythical flash, though I’ve heard and read about it.  I have even supposedly missed it while tending to more pressing matters on the bridge (in plain view of the horizon).

The bad:

This experience reinforced my innate disdain for using an existing, planned and structured approach to writing.    I know it can help, to a certain degree (see, my own prejudice seeps through everywhere on the topic), but I couldn’t drag myself to do it for the first novel, and….you know the rest.

A good friend and writer has given me a few excellent resources, which I have reviewed, but when I sit down to start plotting or structuring…I get a few minutes into it before staring off into space.  I inevitably open the “current novel” file and start to work on the new story instead.  Admittedly, I do use a time line, lists of characters and abundant notes…but not much beyond that.

So, enough about me.  What do you do as a writer?  As a reader, what are your thoughts?

2 Comments

Filed under apocalyptic, author, fiction, fiction writing, post apocalyptic, Writing, Writing Craft

2 responses to “Can you see the future?

  1. Don Bremer

    Read the original final chapter — wouldn’t have made sense in the book that was written “after”. Quite a downer, though.

    Still, you could have killed off Ed…

    • I agree. It was pretty dark. Downer might be an understatement. Still, you can see how I kept a lot of the same elements, but in the context of a much different story. Thanks for reading it Don.

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