W is for Winging It

Hello, and welcome to the April A-Z Blogging Challenge! Over the first 26 days of April, we will explore aspects of writing and marketing books – authors, feel free to weigh in, and readers, feel free to observe and ask questions!



There are some people in this world who can write a perfectly paced masterpiece with elegant characterization and believable dialogue, and they can turn it out by instinct in 1-2 drafts. Statistically speaking, you’re not one of them (and neither am I). There are also some people who possess the ability to plot out, scene by scene, a masterpiece they have not yet started to write, and follow their outline from start to finish without the need to change anything. Statistically speaking, you are also not one of those people, and frankly, I think they may have made bargains with occult powers to be able to do that. It seems like legitimate magic. The rest of us muddle along somewhere in between, either writing a bit and then planning a bit and then writing a bit, or planning things really loosely and letting things get from A to B on their own, or (my personal favorite) making a fairly detailed outline and then hucking it out the window 20,000 words in when it no longer works.

┬áThere’s a lot to be said for planning things out in advance, but there’s also a lot to be said for today’s topic: winging it. Because it’s almost inevitable that at some point, you’re going to have to, and I’m going to tell you honestly that some of my best writing has come from the days when I felt like I had been thrown into a pool, not knowing how to swim, not knowing where the edges were, and simply trying not to drown (by which I mean, hurl my laptop out into the street).

But winging it is also what happens when your fingers are flying over the keys and you’re too caught up in the scene to care about typos. Winging it is what happens when you need a solution and you write down the first thing that comes to mind (that flying pirate ship in Stardust? Yep). Winging it is what happens when, in despair, you write down the only thing you can think of to get from A to B because what you had on your outline isn’t working, and go wallow in your incompetence over a cup of tea, only to come back and find out that the scene was pretty good.

Is this post a call for writers to throw away their outlines and frolic along without guide or plan? Oh, heavens, no. Is winging it going to produce flawless works of fiction that need no edits? Nope, any more than plotted other writing is. But there are just some things you cannot plan, and when your spidey sense goes all tingly, telling you that the scene you outlined is wrong somehow, well … sometimes you just have to follow that spidey sense into the morass of your subconscious and hope you emerge with something good, rather than clinging to the wrong scene out of intellectual stubbornness. Don’t waste hours trying to talk yourself into liking that wrong plot point – wing it and see what happens. Remember: no time spent writing is wasted.

Happy winging it, fellow authors!

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