November 14th, 2009


Question for seat-of-the-pants writers

So, in the shower this morning my plot-focused brain handed me the direction it thinks the current story should have been going all along. The change would simply eliminate the mystery that's been driving the main character so far -- a mystery that I don't yet have a solution for -- replacing it with a different motivation for the main character's actions up until now, and providing a nice tidy ending. (This is the way my brain usually works: setting first, then ending, then characters.)

At this point I have about half of a draft, maybe two-thirds, and I could fairly easily change it to work in the new way. But if I do that I'll never find out where I would have wound up if I'd just kept following my headlights from where I am right now -- I'll never find out the answer to that mystery.

If you're a seat-of-of-the-pants writer, and you get an insight like that partway through drafting the story, how do you handle it? Do you go back and edit the existing words to match the insight? Do you finish the story in the current direction and then go back and change the completed story to match the insight, if it turns out to be better? Do you change horses midstream, write the second half to match the insight, then go back and make the story consistent after it's done? Something else?