There are countless decisions you need to make as a writer, ranging from the genre of your novel to the placement of punctuation. Some decisions come easily, others cause confusion and some perhaps even lead to sleepless nights.
When making a decision, there are usually three elements in play:
- Your gut – What your instinct is telling you.
- Your heart – What you’re emotionally attached to.
- Your head – What options you have before you and the logical reasoning behind them.
How can you use all three of these elements to make the best decisions for your story? And where does your Creativity come into all of this?
Let’s look at an example.
The Beginnings of a Problem
For the past week or two I’ve been going through the edits for my collection of short, short stories called Baverstock’s Allsorts. Most of my editor’s suggestions were straight forward, but there was one suggestion which has given me pause for a number of days.
He suggested I change the ending to one of my stories…and at that point that my gut and my heart went to war with each other.
My gut reaction was that he was right. The change was essential. But my heart was too attached to the original version. It searched for every conceivable reason why I shouldn’t change the ending.
So naturally, being in a quandary, I looked to loved ones and beta readers for their opinion.
If you have ever had experience with this kind of situation, you undoubtedly know what happened next. I was presented with a number of reasons why the ending should stay.
On the positive side, my writing had enough emotional pull for my readers to have strong views on the subject. However, I was once again left in the middle of the war between my gut and my heart – with the added problem that my heart had brought in reinforcements.
The Real Problem
In the process of making the decision, I had to disappoint someone. I had to either go against what my editor said and follow the suggestions of my readers, or I had to trust my editor and change an ending that my readers liked. I also had to choose within myself – to go with my gut or my heart.
Last week I wrote about the independent writing mindset. In an upcoming section of that chapter, we will look at how an independent writer takes responsibility for their writing, especially in the decisions that need to be made in their writing life.
The reality of writing is that you will always disappoint someone. It is impossible to please everyone with what you write and how you write it. So you want to make decisions that are authentic to your voice and your audience.
You probably think that means my example decision should have been easy: Go with what the readers were telling me.
Well, there was one player missing – my mind hadn’t yet entered the fray.
Finding the Solution
After a fitful night’s sleep, I mentioned my conundrum to one last reader. Her response was unexpected – she agreed with the editor. But even more than that, she explained why she agreed. She finally put my gut feeling into words my head could understand.
Once my head was properly involved I saw the issue much more clearly. But, interestingly enough, my Creativity also joined in. With a bit of creative thinking I could see a third option – one that would allow me to incorporate my editor’s suggestions while taking into consideration the elements of the original ending that my readers liked.
Writing problems are seldom black and white (like deciding whether to delete or add). There are often creative solutions that allow you to have the best of both worlds. These solutions may take time to find, but they’re worth the extra effort.
Gut reactions are important, but so is the emotional investment your heart makes. When you are able to add bring your head and your Creativity into the mix, then you can create alternatives that will add depth and authenticity to your writing.
So, what ended up happening with the story? I changed the ending and ran it past my beta readers. Interestingly enough, they liked it!
Now as I sit here writing this, I can’t believe how much protest my heart put up about the change. I’m completely in love with the new ending and can’t imagine the story ending any other way.
Have you had similar experiences in your editing? What did you do to resolve your writing decisions?