Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly

Are You Taking Advantage of Story Detours?


Orange detour road signs.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

If this post is a little less coherent than usual it’s because I’m writing through the brain fog of illness.

Ah, what’s NaNo WriMo without the mandatory flu? I know I’m not the only one who has had the dreaded lurgy this month. Let’s give a big cheer for all those who are writing through the sneezes and sniffles!

I’ve participated in NaNo WriMo three years in a row now, and each year has been different. But each story had something in common – they worked much better when I was willing let my story take a detour.

The first year I stuck rigidly to my plan. I had my rough layout of my story and I wasn’t going to divert from it. The writing was hard and I didn’t make my word count.

The second year I was much more flexible. My writing voice changed several times. On the 28th day I suddenly realised the perfect voice for my story. I would never have found that answer without my willingness to experiment and stubornness to plod through 50,000 words in order to get there.

This year I didn’t have a plan for what I was going to write, I just opened a document on November 1st and started writing.

On day one I made a rough outline of what my story was about – time travel which turns out to be a worldwide hoax.

My main character was planning to go back in time and change her childhood. But before she left on her adventure, I felt it was only right for her to go and say goodbye to her mother.

As it so happens, her mother lives in a beautiful little town cut off from technology – a haven for those who need a rest from the information age.

My character arrived at the town and was invited to stay. We’re over 35,000 words into it and there’s no sign of my main character leaving the town! Could the town and the mother/daughter relationship actually be the story?

I have no idea but I’m very happy to go with it. For November I only care about the word count and the words are coming smoothly.

But even if that weren’t the case, my story radar started beeping as soon as I got wind of this town. It’s full of quirky inhabitants and interesting conversations. Who cares what my character wants to do? I don’t want to leave. I want to know more about this place. I want to explore the people, the relationships, the backgrounds, the interactions. I want to know the story of this town and its people.

I would never have found this story if I hadn’t been willing to let the story detour from my original outline.

What about you? Where’s your story headed? Is your story radar beeping, pointing to something down a different path to where you thought you were headed?

There’s still plenty of November left. Why don’t you take a detour and see what story is down there?

You can clean everything up in edits later. This is your first draft. Seize the opportunity to explore all the angles and see past the obvious story.


Author: Jessica

I'm a writer who refuses to pin myself down to one genre, hopping from science-fiction and fantasy through to literary and even the odd western now and then. Check out what I've written at or follow me on Twitter @jessbaverstock.

2 thoughts on “Are You Taking Advantage of Story Detours?

  1. I LOVE the premise for your novel this year, Jessica!

    I’m experiencing the same kind of thing you went through last year and hoping for some sort of ‘eureka’ moment any day now, 35,000 words in and with only one week left for Nanowrimo lol.

    I’m bound and determined to get there though. It’s just so fascinating what I’m discovering about my characters and how they respond to what happens in their lives (those I expected to be on the page and those who showed up unannounced). I’m learning so much through the discipline of writing almost 2,000 words every day 🙂

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