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Organic writing is seldom a linear process. The writing itself is always discovery, so new revelations will need to be woven back through the piece. This will involve wrong turns sometimes. You might have to let yourself follow interesting tangents because they will help you understand the characters better. But those peripheral events might not prove worthy of inclusion in the final cut, or they could be reduced from full scenes to a few sentences or paragraphs of narrative summary. Discovery might mean traversing many dull miles until you reach the good stuff. Then it's simply a matter of moving the "beginning" later, and ditching the less interesting "prequel" material.
This re-assessment can't really be bypassed, in my experience. Your intuition will nag at you, will sabotage your efforts to move forward until you stop, figure out where you are being drawn (and why), then make the path behind smoother, as if this plot were as linear as a marked trail. Only then, when you have a clear picture of what your story is "about"--what its focal theme is--can the best ending emerge.
Here are some key questions to ask when you reach the brink and your gut says "don't move forward yet."
- What patterns seem to be emerging that are parallel among my story lines? If none, how could I develop more parallelism among my main plot and subplots?
- How might I express these parallel patterns as a theme? (For example, characters all struggling to be honest with each other might reveal themes like "be careful who you trust," or "the truth will set you free.")
- What themes have I discovered that could be more strongly developed from page 1?
- Which threads can I reasonably weave through the conclusion? Which should simply be removed? Which need to be downplayed--the scenes radically trimmed? Where can I reassign actions to more important characters?
- What subplots emerged in the middle that needed to be seeded earlier?
- What have characters revealed late in the story that could be better foreshadowed?
At what points do you re-assess your story? What questions do you ask yourself?
*this term is emerging to replace the somewhat derogatory "seat-of-your-pants writer" or "pantser." It acknowledges the power of intuition as more important than formulas for creating powerful stories.