Creating: Writing Surprises

I had a different post planned for today. It was written, scheduled, ready to go. But it kept niggling at me. Something wasn't right.

I'm still not sure what was off. It's still in the queue, but now it's in draft form. Maybe one day I'll figure out what I really wanted to say that didn't come across, and fix it.

But for now, it's late Sunday night and I'm writing a new post for Monday morning.

Hey, better now than to wake up at three in the morning and realize I have to change it :)

This is the kind of writing surprise we don't like.

Then there's the really bad writing surprise. Once, in an editing frenzy, I worked all afternoon making hard copy edits to a chapter. Finally it was done, and I set it aside to input the next day. We were having friends over for dinner, so I tidied up the house and myself and started cooking. The evening was a success.

The next day I sat down to work. No pages. I checked the drawers, the floor, the places Shiner likes to take things he isn't supposed to have. And shreds. Nothing. Then I remembered. I'd picked up a stack of paper to shred. Yep. I'd shredded my edited pages. I spent the morning redoing what I'd done the previous afternoon.

But then there are those Oh, Sweet! surprises. You know the kind I mean.

That stray line you added to Chapter 2 because you couldn't get out of your head that finally came together with the plot in Chapter 11.

The real villain who ended up a hundred times more evil and motivated than the one you chose originally.

The hunky hero who walked on in Chapter 3 and stayed when he was really supposed to just walk-on midway through and leave.

Surprises come in all sizes and flavors.

How do you handle writing surprises - the good, the bad, and the ugly ones?


Jan Morrison said…
all my writing is a surprise! It really is - I never know what is going to happen next. My rock walker patrols the rocks at Peggy's Cove and sees an abandoned bundle - turns out to be a baby - a few chapters later I find out the mother has been murdered. I didn't even know I was writing a mystery! I love it - this untold story pouring out of one. yes.
the shredding story is a TRULY frightening one. yikes.
Joanne said…
The bad surprises don't usually surprise me. On some level, I kind of sense when something isn't working.

But the good surprises ... Hooray! They're the real gift of writing, the present beneath the hours of toil that we finally unwrap :)
Linda Kage said…
I've lost too-many-to-count pages on my computer before, and it just makes me feel ill, totally sick to my stomach. I usually have to come back way later to re-do it when that happens. And surprisingly, the story usually feels better after I do.

On happy surprises: I kind of just blink and think, "Wow, who wrote that?"
KarenG said…
I do that with blog posts, too. In fact I did that last night. I'll often change them half a dozen times before I actually have one I'm satisfied with.
Hart Johnson said…
I have two missing pages on my current WiP... I wrote them... I know what they're about, but I can't find them... I hate those surprises... I keep hoping they will turn up. I love the good ones you're talking about though--those are the biggest rush of writing for me.
LR said…
I don't mind writing surprises but I hate computer surprises (blue screen, suddenly no Internet connection etc.).
Terry Odell said…
I love the surprises. I love seeing a line in chapter 3 that ends up making perfect sense in chapter 7. I think our subconscious minds know what's REALLY supposed to happen no matter what we think we're writing.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery
I'll second Hart's surprise. One day maybe I'll discover that there's a little gremlin in my house that steals my best writing and stores it in a box somewhere...
Laura Eno said…
Most surprises like that are good ones, for me. My characters like to keep me guessing. :) The bad ones...well, I can kind of feeling them coming. They gnaw at my brain.
notesfromnadir said…
Oh no--you shredded your editing! Wow, I'd be kinda upset about that.
VR Barkowski said…
Now that I realize surprises are part of the process, I'm getting better at handling them—the bad ones, that is. The good ones are always a joy, like tiny miracles, and I cherish each one.

Always been a little afraid of the shredder. Now I'm terrified!
Talei said…
Oh I'm feeling this one. Surprises that walk in and out of chapters, surprises that don't drink in one chapter and then are complete lushes in another.... mmm

Good luck with revisions, it's a long process but we'll get there dear! x
Lydia K said…
I like the surprises--the good ones, that is. Not the accidentally-shredding-important-notes kind.
Oh crap! I don't know if I'd survive that kind of surprise.
Maryann Miller said…
I have misplaced pages before, too, but never shredded them. Ouch!!

And I know what you mean when something you've written just doesn't feel right. Best to just put it aside. I think I have four or five drafts in my blog list waiting for me to figure out what the heck I was trying to say. LOL
I'm familiar with writing surprises; sometimes they're great, sometimes they're head-bangingly awful. I love discovering I'd written something which can be used as foreshadowing that I never realized I'd written. I hate discovering I've written the same clue being discovered five different times.

No, I've never shredded editing - but there's always a first time. Ug.
Jayne said…
I run with them--no matter what kind. They show up for a reason, and I usually need to know why. It helps that most of them are happy surprises. ;)
Talli Roland said…
OMG, I think I would die if I shredded my work in the editing phase. It's so tedious and takes me ages!

I do love when a solution hits me. I wish that would happen more often!
Depends on the writing surprise. Some you just know as you're writing them that they'll stay. They're perfect, even if you didn't know you were going to write it in the first place.

Some others are simply self-indulgence. I'm lazy and wanting to make progress, so I use the 'throw pasta against the wall and see what sticks' method. Doesn't work so well most times and I'm to blame.

Those others, the really ugly surprises (computer failure, missing edited pgs, discovering you've written excellent characters but a mess of a plot)I rant about then accept and learn from it. What alternative is there? It is what it is.
Carol Kilgore said…
Hi All - After a wonderful weekend, my morning ended up being crammed full of family issues. But I'm back on track finally. I think - LOL.
Stephen Tremp said…
Surprises do arise when you develop an outline into the draft. Example: the girlfriend of the protagonist in my book went from a minor character to a main character. In fact, she became the main assassin and had a brief fling with the protagonist beofre she tried to kill him. I didn't see that coming.
Carol Kilgore said…
Jan - I love creating something from nothing.

Joanne - The good surprises are indeed a gift.

Linda - I've experienced a couple of those WOW moments :)

Karen - Usually my blog posts don't take very long and don't give me much trouble. This one didn't fully express what I intended to say and I couldn't think of a different way to approach the subject.

Hart - Hope you find those pages. The good ones are just as you say :)

LR - I hate those computer surprises, too. I'm good about backing up my writing at the end of the day.

Terry - Yes. The subconscious is a smart cookie :)

Elizabeth - I wonder if the muses hire the gremlins?

Laura - I get that gnawing, too.

Lisa - Kinda upset. I railed around here for days over being so careless.
Carol Kilgore said…
VR - Just do more than glance at what you're intending to shred and you'll be OK.

Talei - LOL...I've had a surprise or two like that!

Lydia - I'm all for good surprises, too :)

Alex - It wasn't easy, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Maryann - I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with a waiting draft in my blog folder.

Elspeth - May that first time to shred your editing never come to you.

Jayne - Happy ones are nearly always good :)

Talli - Same here. I was devastated and totally disgusted with myself.

Carol - Yes, we learn best from our mistakes. At least I do.

Stephen - I'm laughing! I love when things like that happen.
I agree with Joanne that the bad surprises don't really surprise me.

The good surprises, though, I celebrate those. For example, I recently had an ephiphany about the problem in my current WIP and I made cupcakes. That might be extreme, but I look for any reason to celebrate. =)

-Miss GOP
I handle the writing surprises (that often come in the night) by writing. And trying to make up the sleep later.
Jennifer Shirk said…
Nooooooooooooo! I don't handle bad suprises well. (especially if there's any kind of deleting or shredding involved.)
Good suprises I love. LOL
Carol Kilgore said…
Miss Good on Paper - Somedays everything surprises me - or so it seems. Other days, not so much. But epiphanies ... they call for pouring of wine. Or coffee. Depending on time of day.

Theresa - Good you can do that.

Jennifer - Same here.
Clarissa Draper said…
I love those writing surprises. I have never shredded my documents but I have had great lines that I didn't write down and they came back to me later. That's the best.
Carol Kilgore said…
Clarissa - I'm glad you haven't shredded your documents. It's no fun. I have had the same thing happen with great lines :)
Savannah said…
I think surprises are something that all writers can identify with. Good surprises - how hunky my hero seems sometimes, it's like an "I wrote that?" moment. Bad/ugly/loathsome surprises - when you lose ANYTHING, handwritten, typed, edited, it's just awful. So sorry yours got shredded.

Thanks for another great post Carol. Hope you find what's niggling at you soon :)
Medeia Sharif said…
I outline, but I stray and welcome surprises.

I've accidentally shredded things, too.
irishoma said…
My surprises occur after I've started or completed a short story then filed it and forgotten about it. Then, when I'm going through files I open a file a read the story and think, "Wow! Did I write that? It's not bad!" or "Wow! What was I thinking when I wrote that?"

Surprises make life interesting--and usually fun!

Donna V.
Carol Kilgore said…
Savannah - I really love those good surprises :) Niggles come and go. Maybe whenever I look at it again I'll know what to do.

Medeia - I'm planning my next project much more thoroughly than I've ever planned anything. I'm sure I'll stray, too.

Donna - LOL! I agree about surprises.
Trisha said…
I read that story about you shredding your edits...and just winced. OUCH. When I was in school, I made my lil bro cry 'cause I thought he'd ruined my novel on the computer, I couldn't find it anywhere. Managed to recover it thankfully. Even though I was distraught, I still felt bad that he cried. :P
Donna Hole said…
I stick my tongue out at those nasty ones.

And curse when my hard worked changes are not saved. Aargh.

Randy said…
Ick, I had one of those evil writing surprises the other day--the kind where you lose the brilliant prose you wrote. Turns out the new tablet computer doesn't operate like Windows--once I navigated away from my document, it was gone. Vanished. Disappeared forever. And maybe it's me, but I SWEAR I never write things better the second time.