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Advice needed - my story is running away with me!
Lisa Hoekstra
Posted: Saturday, February 11, 2012 3:39 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 89

hi all! So, I need some advice (sorry in advance for the length of this post). I'm not sure where in my world's timeline to start. Not anymore. I was originally a story about Tian-chi, but initial reviews of that starting point convinced me I needed to set up the world earlier. So I went back and started the story with another character. The new start received reviews that were positive, "much improved" type comments. (for which I'm incredibly grateful and happy the hard work is paying off).... However it feels like a whole different story. The new POV is pulling me in a direction that doesn't feel conducive to getting to Tian-chi's plot line and I have no real plot arc developed for this section. It's just boring, every day life type stuff.... But it wants to be written. So, what do I do with this? Should I just devise some sort of plot that would make this section more interesting? Then write Tian-chi's story? Hers is the story I want to write.... The frustrating part is that I HAD an outline... And my story went AWOL, taking me with it. Has anyone else had this happen? What did you do to get back on track?
Tom Wolosz
Posted: Sunday, February 12, 2012 10:15 PM
Joined: 5/25/2011
Posts: 122

Hello Lisa,

     I just read through your story (I’ll review it after I give it a second read), and I find myself at a disadvantage because I don’t know what comprises the original story and what is the new material which is hijacking it.  So let me give you a few general suggestions.

     Make an outline of the new ideas – let it run away with you for a while, get the outline on paper.  Remember, the more you know about your characters the better the story will be because you will understand and know them like they were you. Once you have it, ask yourself if there is enough good material here for a prequel.  Are there enough dramatic events – are there things that happen to Tian-chi as she grows up that warrant a separate novel?  If yes, then you know what to do.  If no – then you have a lot of well thought out backstory – yes it may be “boring, everyday sort of stuff….” – but it is important to your understanding of the character even if it never makes it into the story.  (When Tian-chi tells Kyoshi she caught the fish I learned that she has empathy for other living things, as do most children. Does that stay with her? Or is it later burned out?) .

    So if it is backstory, then  pick and choose.  What is critical to the story?  I know that you got some bad reviews about a prologue – I see no problem with them, and the chapter where Kyoshi finds the baby strikes me as a perfect one if it’s done right.  Other stuff can be used in flashback as long as it doesn’t get too confusing. But be very critical with your choices! 

    Let me stop here.  Remember these are very broad brush, general comments, but I hope they help.  I’ll do a review of the story ASAP, and be glad to continue this discussion if you like.

Lisa Hoekstra
Posted: Monday, February 13, 2012 10:54 AM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 89

Hi Tom,

Thanks so much for the advice. I think I've calmed down a bit... (I was in a bit of a panic all weekend). I will definitely work on an outline for this section and decide if the every day life is essential to the plot line.

To explain a bit further, the five chapters up right now are all new... the original story started with Tian-chi at age 7, from her POV... and I will be incorporating it later (in part 2 of the story). 

I'm much happier with this beginning, though I'm still working on making it the "perfect" beginning. And there's that whole "can't figure out how to connect the dots" problem. Oh the joys of developing a new world!

I look forward to your review. Having a new perspective (one that hasn't read any of my original chapters) will be very helpful.

I'm hoping to work on connecting the dots tonight - so I might be posting in another panic later. Thanks again for your advice!
ME Chick
Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 7:39 PM
Joined: 5/8/2011
Posts: 13

Hopefully I'll get to your story later this week or the weekend, but your discussion caught my attention as I'm in the same situation. My original story for the Princess of Ashmire was looking good, but I was told it was dragging. To beef it up, it was suggested that I turn it into a trilogy, which logically would have been easy. But two of the books would have been straight romance, which I don't want to write. So I tried to go back and rewrite the original, and it was looking better, but was going long. Now, I've decided to scratch the entire first part (her school years) and start after graduation.

In short, Jaya's got me going all over the map, but I've decided to just hold on and see where she takes me. And I'm really excited about the new direction, even though it means scrapping about a hundred pages. So keep with it and don't be afraid to reach to where you might not want to go. (And always keep a copy of past versions in case you want to go back

Brian Lowe
Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2012 12:13 AM
Joined: 1/31/2012
Posts: 16

Sometimes you just have to wade through the marshes to get to solid ground. If the new material begs to be written but doesn't fit your idea of the book, write it and set it aside. It doesn't have to be included in the book, which should start at the latest possible point. Think of this new material as research; you have to know it, but the reader doesn't. Trying to impose a plot onto pages you aren't thrilled about won't work, and you could lose your passion for the entire project.
Lisa Hoekstra
Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2012 12:23 AM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 89

Thanks ME & Brian! I'll definitely just write my way through it. I can see a few minor plot points coming out in the murkiness... but other than that, it'll be an adventure!

It's nice to hear that I'm not the only one whose characters almost literally take on a life of their own.

Harper Wade
Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012 2:33 PM
Joined: 2/25/2012
Posts: 20

Oh yes. I know the feeling. Have you considered doing a sequel? Setting up Tian-chi's background through Kyoshi, accomplishing the and-now-we-know-where-she's-from battle, and then getting into the intricacies of her character and trials as an adult in a second project, or such. I know, I'm such an enabler. =P

My stories do the same thing--even the book I started as a nice, simple kid's story turned into this massive beast with intrigue and betrayal and all manner of social commentary...sigh. And it happens a lot that my would be MC (occasionally titular!) has to step aside as the story develops to make way for an almost incidental character to take the reins. Not sure if you've read Unfit, but that's absolutely what happened with Renner and, to an extent, Mendel: Renner was supposed to be "just an apprentice" and Mendel was supposed to be "just this guy who gets killed by this girl", but now they both play huge parts in the plot.

Don't despair! Rein it in if you feel like it's going too haywire, but no harm done in letting it go for a while. You can always go back and adjust or tack on a second story.

Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012 10:54 AM
Joined: 12/1/2011
Posts: 35

I am always a fan of letting the story write itself, at least to a certain degree.  Sometimes a character or an idea can blossom on its own as you write - don't be afraid to let it out!  You can always edit later and remove the extra bits (something which I am going to do a lot of).  But I find that when a character grown on his or her own, they tend to be the better characters.

For example: I had a very minor character whom I had only penned into a few scenes while outlining, and then just for realism sake.  Suddenly I had an issue with my story and this character quite literally screamed at me that he was the solution.  Now, quite on his own, this charater has become a major player in one of the plot threads, along with his family (a wife and 7 kids!) and the people all around him.  And I am 100% sure that story has benefitted from his involvement, and the scenes with him are some of the ones I am most proud of to date.

So let them run wild a bit - just put up a few fences to keep them from getting away.  With room to roam and grow, they just might surprise you.
Lisa Hoekstra
Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012 10:49 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 89

So true! I've realized that I needed to stop focusing on my planned MC & allow the story to take me where I want to go. Because ultimately the story is what wants to be told, not my interpretation of the story. If that makes any sense

@Harper - I have considered making it into two books - the first as the beginning of the Nu-xia & the introduction to Tian-Chi and the second as her story. But I'm not certain there is much to the beginning of the Nu-xia story... not enough to sustain it for a full book. But there will definitely be parts. Part 1 is the background... Part 2 is her story.

(also, I haven't had a chance to yet, but I will look at Unfit. Your description of your experience with your characters has only made me want to read it more!

@PureMagic - I totally understand what you're saying. My two POVs right now are characters I'd deemed "minor" in the beginning. Now they're almost full blown MCs! But it's creating a more dynamic story, I think. Just gotta figure out where to put the fences... (good thing editing is a way of life in writing!)

Happy Writing!


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