People in writing groups often ask me, “What do I do when I get conflicting advice? How will I ever decide which way to go?”
My answer is: “Try it both ways and see which works! Donâ€™t just write one ending, write three!”
It’s a medically proven fact: Writing the same scene several different ways won’t actually kill you.
Take a cue from visual artists. They make a hundred pencil drawings of a subject before even starting with the paint. They paint the same dang pot of flowers a dozen times, with only slight variations. They doodle in their sketchbooks all day, making stuff no one will ever see. But they rarely sit there and just complain about a compositional problem without putting their hands on a brush/pen/piece of clay.
In my second novel, Fine Prey, I actually wrote a scene that I knew wouldn’t be in the final draft, just so I could visualize what had happened “off screen” in the story. Weird, but it worked.
In another case, I lost a short story and had to write it again from scratch. Then I found the original again. (Argh.) Guess what? The combination of the two–taking the best elements of each–was better than anything I would have reached by fiddling endlessly with that lost original. And the experience of writing a story twice and then comparing the two versions helped me understand it in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.
You see, paper is magic: Making marks on it changes your brain. So, donâ€™t sit around trying to think your way out of problems, write your way out of them. The best place to find answers is on a piece of paper or a glowing phosphorus screen.
One quick note
Of course, thinking about writerly issues in the shower or while jogging is a fine habit to get into, because otherwise that’s just wasted time.* Please understand that I’m not against thinking; I’m only against thinking that thinking on its own will get you out of a hole. Shovel also needed.
*Except for the being hygienic and fit, which is somewhat useful.