Keep or Delete?: The Importance of Being Flexible with Your Writing

A few weeks ago, I finished writing chapter seven of the first draft of my historical fantasy novel and crossed the 100-page mark (yay!). I sent it off to one of my CPs, both nervous and excited about their feedback because the chapter focused on a big chunk of the backstory for one of my favorite characters. It was a part of their story I really wanted to tell, but for some reason, it felt shoehorned in. I was anxious for another set of eyes and a new perspective.

As we talked, they revealed they felt the same way: the chapter itself was interesting, but it slowed the flow of the plot, could have been confusing to readers (there was a 30-year time gap between the previous chapter and this one), and more importantly, it didn’t focus on the conflict that the critique partner as a reader cared about and wanted to see continued.

From there, I had a choice to make. I had stuck close to my original outline for the chapter, even though the previous chapters had changed to better accommodate the overall arc of the story. I had intended two more chapters that included similar time jumps, so I could get rid of them all, and rewrite my outline, OR I could keep them, but slow down the pace immensely.

I’m currently rewriting chapter seven, BUT I did not delete the original draft. Why? because writing the backstory helped me flush out the character even more, and I found a story within a story that I LOVED to file away for later. So, to all plotters caught between the rock and the hard place of following your outline or staying true to your characters,  I say this: Let the outline be your map, but let the characters be your guide. Don’t give up on a story because it’s not turning out the way you planned. look at it as an opportunity to make it even better!

What writing lesson have you learned this week?

As always, keep making magic, word weavers!

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