Honey Badger Don’t Plot
So, I’m sitting at my keyboard drafting the last few chapters of a novel and I know where the story goes. I know how the plot lines come together, how the characters change and I’m just about ready to wrap this one up. I’m at this point because I’ve outlined, planned and plotted the story from the beginning. But, now there is a huge fricken hole in my bucket and all the ideas are spilling out, flopping on the floor like dying fish. Fish that I can’t use, because they don’t swim in my little story idea.
That, is the issue. Usually, I draft a story using less structured guideposts, free-writing, or “pantsing” it as I go along. I wanted to try the structured outline and my creative muse was not amused.
As the story wound down, I was like a cat distracted by every shiny object in the room. The Corgi hair balls that collect at the baseboards needed vacuuming, let’s re-caulk the shower door, or go mow the lawn (for the East Coasters who may be reading this – a lawn is a lush green vegetation which grows in the presence of sunlight, above freezing temperatures). In the midst of the frantic non-directed activity, I psychically channelled a Honey Badger on bath salts, pouncing on one story distraction after another.
All the distractions had to mean something. I needed a way to translate them before my muse went on a three day bender. I tried reading coffee grounds, tossing dried chicken bones on the table, only to realize I needed caffeine and lunch. This was going nowhere.
The distractions told me my story was going nowhere. My outline said the story wrapped up nicely with a little pretty bow on top, but deep down in my twisted dark bowels, I knew it was too pretty. Pretty and predictable.
My rigid outline didn’t let the story evolve, or reveal enough about the characters to make readers want to give a crap. My test audience told me as much:
I scrapped the outline and re-drafted the last third of the story. My main character changed professions and mindset, from a straight by-the-book cop, to a blue collar bigot. A main theme of the novel involves the people caught in the middle of the fight over illegal immigration. Toss a character with learned racial bigotry into a scenario where he must rely on the very people he despised to survive and his belief system starts to unravel.
The rewrite on this one will be a challenge, but worth it. The morale of the writing process story on this one is: Listen to your muse (gut, instinct, coffee grounds, chicken bones or drug addicted Honey Badger) and trust yourself. If an outline is handcuffing you (not in a 50 Shades of Grey way) then let loose and just write the story you want to write. Embrace your inner Honey Badger.
There will be plenty of time for all the revisions and rewriting. So remember:
- The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway
- Writing is when we make the words.
- Editing is when we make the words not shitty. Chuck Wendig
There’s a Honey Badger waiting for you! Go…