Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Guest Poster Melissa Tagg: Do the Work!
Completely unexpected. Kinda bad timing. But oh, just the perfect moment…
Robbie’s pretend, by the way. :) And it wasn’t my door he showed up at, but Miranda’s—the heroine in my debut novel, Made to Last. And it wasn’t a perfect moment for her.
But for me as the author…oh yes. It was a delicious plot twist that took me totally by surprise. Non-writers don’t get it—how characters can go and do something we didn’t see coming. But writers know—it happens!
You’re trotting along in a scene and all of a sudden someone blurts out a line you didn’t plan or something happens plot-wise to surprise you.
It’s a little magical.
And, sometimes, a lot frustrating. As was the case when Robbie showed up.
Don’t get me wrong, at first I loved it. I remember getting giddy thinking about how fabulously that scene came together with Robbie’s sudden and unexpected appearance at the end. But an hour or maybe two later, it hit me: this little twist translated into a lot of work on my part.
See, Robbie wasn’t supposed to show up for a couple more chapters. I had it all planned out in what felt like the perfect timeline.
But noooo…he decides to show up several chapters early and throw off all my plans. Suddenly my neat little plot spreadsheet didn’t work so well anymore. (If you need to pause here and gasp at the thought of me, Melissa Tagg, hater of Excel, willingly creating a spreadsheet, that’s okay)
And I remember thinking to myself: Well, I could nix Robbie’s appearance, go back to what I planned originally. But deep down, I knew that’d be a mistake. And I knew the only reason I was even considering it was because I was scared of the extra work it meant to the rest of the story.
But here’s what I learned once I decided to hunker down and do the work: It’s worth it.
It’s worth ripping out and tearing up scenes to get to the good stuff.
It’s worth hitting the “delete” key or slaving over necessary new words.
It’s worth messing with what once felt like a perfect storyline to get to an even better plot.
It’s worth digging through what we’ve got with a loose grip, open mind and crazy levels of determination to hit that story sweet spot.
Our stories are better for it when we refuse to be rushed, lazy or impatient during the revision process. Our plots are richer and our characters deeper when we battle through edits, surpassing better and reaching for best. When we stand up to the hard work, take a cue from Nike and just do it.
Even when it means a twist that goes against our plot chart or a scene we never planned on but that we know belongs.
And you know, if we want to veer off into the spiritual for a moment, there’s probably a pretty good life lesson here. God throws us plot twists now and then, doesn’t he? Fiddles with—or maybe sometimes even wrecks—our perfectly plotted lives.
And yet…isn’t it worth it? Isn’t it worth following the twists and peeking around the divine bends, doing the work of trust and obedience even when it’s uncomfortable…or just simply not part of our plan?
I think it is.
Definitely not easy.
But definitely worth it.
Have you ever been surprised by a plot twist that required lots of changes or rewrites to your story? Ever had a crazy life twist that changed your plans?
Melissa Tagg is a former newspaper reporter and total Iowa girl. Her first novel, Made to Last, releases from Bethany House in September 2013. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, Melissa is also the marketing/events coordinator for My BookTherapy. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at www.melissatagg.com.