Sometimes your stories take unexpected turns. One minute, Johnny and Susie are going to the mall. And then the car breaks down. While they’re freaking out about no cell reception, they meet Fred, who will not only fix their car for free, but turns out to be a good friend throughout the rest of the book.
Now, you meant for them to go to the mall. For whatever reason, the car broke down. Whether you had the idea as they got in the car and talked about why they need their cell phones, or you realized they needed another friend, you ended up with an unexpected part of the story.
This is a good thing. Don’t fight it. Don’t question it too much. Embrace the strange turn. Evaluate its merit later. Your job is to get to the finish line. Judging whether the words you’ve strung together are any good is a job that is months away.
Surprises are good
Generally, when you’re surprised as an author, it’s a good thing. Now, if you’re planning a surprise for your readers, it’s a different story. You have to plant hints along the way. But believe it or not, you, as the author, can be surprised as well.
Take this to mean that your characters, your setting, and your story itself is taking on a life of its own. This is good, because if it has taken on its own life, the story will be easier to complete.
Don’t get sidetracked
Now, when you meet an unplanned character or see a new place that you weren’t expecting, some part of you may get excited. Ooo. I wonder what happened there? This is where it is helpful to plan out your story. If you know that Johnny and Susie are supposed to go to the mall, then don’t let Fred distract them. While you may not have planned Fred, and are interested about him, don’t let him steal the show. Don’t let him talk Johnny and Susie into visiting his shop if you know that they’re supposed to go to the mall. Now, if you don’t know where Johnny and Susie were going to begin with, or what was important about the mall, then follow Fred. But if not, stick with the plan. Embrace the unexpected, but keep your story arc in mind. If they’re supposed to go to the mall, make sure they get there.
For me, the unexpected turns of my story meant I hit some issues that I never intended. If you find yourself heading toward a sensitive subject, use caution. You don’t have to steer away from those topics, just address them with respect and restraint. See what happens.
Seriously, the unexpected stuff is fun. Okay, it may not be fun now, but it can be fun to read later.
So keep on writing! Reaching this step means you are doing great, and you can likely finish your story if you just put in the time. Hooray!