Novelist Brian Morton talks about novels that shift and change in the process of writing, with main characters who appear out of nowhere, eventually replacing the protagonists and plots he had first envisaged.
Decades ago, when I was in college, I had a writing teacher who told his students to “write the novel you want to read.” I’ve been trying to follow this advice for almost forty years now, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
I found the essay intriguing, because I don’t write like that. This is not to claim that my way is better; I’m still getting good at this novel-writing thing. Only for me, I tend to just get stuck in places until I re-see my original ideas more clearly, work out the missing element whose absence was making the writing feel flat. When that element is finally perceived, of course, it can provoke new scenes, additional characters. But rarely to the drastic extent Morton describes.
How about you? How open are you, in your writing, to the unexpected?
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