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Some Writing Advice

#1

Stephen King said (to paraphrase) “It is the tale, not he who tells it.” Finding one’s voice is one thing, knowing when to shut up and let the story tell itself can be quite another.

Came across a video with John Shanks, a guitar player/collector (with Melissa Etheridge and Rod Stewart, for example) and producer. The producer hat brought him to very similar insights as the Maester from Maine. Join in about 7:00 into the video - although the whole thing is interesting.

(I love it when the characters start talking to each other in my head and tell me to butt out with my author self!)

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#2

Often the problem I have with a story is when it becomes clear that the writer stuck to an idea even though the story desperately wanted to go in another direction. That’s why it bugs me when fans say a TV series with a long arc must stick to the predetermined destination, if there is one, and despise the creators if they find out there wasn’t one. Because inspiration keeps coming, and shouldn’t be stymied.

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#3

I think that it depends: If you want a series to progress you can use the same patron for all of the sagas, but in a different way to show new things about the characters.

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#4

The problem I have with changing the story in mid-arc is that it means the writer released the story before it was finished. It’s fine to change the destination while you’re still planning the story. But you shouldn’t still be planning it after you’ve released it for other people to read.

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#5

But even when you’re writing a book, by the time you turn in a manuscript it still isn’t technically done. An editor might make suggestions, for instance. There’s an entire invisible element to writing that readers and/or viewers never consider, that it’s not merely a matter of writing the thing. But even in the initial writing, so many things can and should change. You don’t turn away inspiration, especially if it makes the story better. A writer worth their salt is always tuned into their fount of inspiration. You can’t turn it off. I don’t trust any writer who can.

I don’t know, it occurs to me, if you were thinking of comic books specifically. If it’s a short arc (enough for a single collection, say), I would hope it would be a story the writer has plotted out ahead of time. But the details can change. I get a little caught up in this sort of thing, being a writer myself. The destination is essential; it’s like a roadmap, or GPS. But you can play around with how you get there. Changing those details could very well make the difference in your perception of the destination. For instance: omit “How did you know that name?” and a certain neck-snapping, and how does perception change?

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#6

This is a great analogy. If you have the finish in your head, which you should have, the places along the way should be mapped out. ie. The events or actions from others that will shape your protagonists journey. Things shouldn’t divert much if you know your character well enough, all their reactions should already feel appropriate because you’ve plotted each part of the journey based on them. Not knowing the major plot points before writing something is asking for a fall - unless it’s a continuing series and you are building a larger narrative - but not knowing your character and how they will instinctively react is even worse.

On the subject to changes, Neil Gaiman has a similar analogy - a first draft is like driving in the dark with your headlights barely working. You can just about see where you are going and no more so, even though you know your destination and find your way there, when you take the drive again you’ll spot just how much you missed or what wrong turns you took.

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#7

I can’t disagree with anything you say.

But I still think that if you haven’t finished your story, you shouldn’t publish it. I don’t mean you can’t show it to your editor or your beta reader or your pal down the pub or whatever. But that’s a bit different to asking people to pay for what they will naturally assume is a finished story if you’re still changing your mind about what the last half will be.

But I admit I’m arguing from a position of ignorance – I’ve never tried writing a 10,000 page story (or whatever e.g. Game of Thrones works out as) so maybe it’s just simply impossible to plot that much story in advance.

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