In the world of a story, it's easy for the writer to feel a little bit like God. We build worlds, we create characters, we conjure social, cultural and historical context, we weave backstory like magic through a life that we designed. We are architects and magicians and parents and teachers. We create, inhabit and manipulate, setting up the dominoes just so we can watch them fall.
Our control is far from absolute. If we're doing our jobs properly, we have no say in how those dominoes topple, where they will land or which direction they will face. We all hope to create honest, authentic characters who are capable of surprising us. Our control vanishes with that first sly nudge. From that point, all we can really do is watch.
It's a strange feeling, following a story of your own imagining as it veers off course and unfolds in ways that you didn't expect or even want. This crazy roller coaster ride of unpredictability is a marvellous thing although if you're used to planning everything to within an inch of its life I imagine it'll come as a little bit of a shock. Such exhilarating chaos means your story is out in the world. It is of you and yet separate from you.
I am not good at letting go. The temptation is to claw the story back from the hands of my protagonist (or antagonist, and they're twice as tricky), to try to regain control and to drive the story home to the place I thought it would end. The problem is that what I envisaged as the end may no longer fit with the story I've written. It might be a lovely idea, a stunning image, a beautiful piece of juxtaposition but if I have to fight to get the piece to the conclusion I'd imagined , I know it's not the conclusion it was meant to have. In writing as in life, the application of brute force to get a certain outcome usually just results in carnage.
Be brave. Enjoy the fact that a well drawn character can steal a story that belongs to your imagination. It's risky, it's exciting and it means that each time you sit down in front of a blank page with a pen in your hand, you do so with the end in doubt.
A story never feels finished. That's a lesson writers learn fast. There is always something you would like to tweak or change, a section you probably could have cut or a point of view that you wish you had explored. If we all waited until we were completely happy with our work, nobody would ever be published. Ever.
Tell the story only you can tell. Tell it with as much flare and pizazz as you can muster. Edit, rewrite, change the tense. Edit again, switch viewpoints, check your grammar. Eat it, breathe it, sleep it but learn to recognise the point at which you fail to improve it.
When you start to change things simply for the sake of change, it's time to let go.
Until next time...