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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Guest Post! Don't Be Afraid to Go Left by Jena Leigh

We're excited to have Jena Leigh taking over the blog today with a guest post! Jena is the author of The Variant Series.

Don't Be Afraid to Go Left by Jena Leigh

authorMy muse likes to torture me.

Whenever it comes time to begin a new project, I’ll sit down at the computer—the outline for my newest story fresh in my mind—and I’ll start the begging process. Groveling is the only currency currently recognized by my muse.

"Words…," I’ll say. "Please, just a few words to get me started. I know precisely where this story is headed, I just need a little help with the opening lines!"

Minutes pass. Hours. Or—heaven forbid—days… But eventually, I’ll crank out a thousand words. Then two thousand. Next thing I know, Chapter One is finished and we’re on to Chapter Two.

This is where some writers catch their stride and that outline in their head starts working its way onto the page. Weeks or months later, the first draft of their novel is finished and it all went according to plan!

Oh, I should be so lucky…

My muse is not nearly so accommodating.

Instead, this is usually the point in my creative process where I realize that the magnificent story arc I’d created in my head is in serious danger of falling apart.

"Go right!" I tell my characters.

“Go left,” whispers my muse.

Two guesses whom they’ll listen to. I have no authority here. It’s not my story. It’s theirs.

That’s the funny thing about writing. Once your characters are well formed… Once their predispositions are set and their personalities are decided… They stop playing by your rules.

And that is my favorite thing about writing fiction.

At some point during the creation of Revival, I realized that my original storyline had been broken down and reformed into something entirely unexpected. As I learned more about my characters, I began trusting them to tell their own story—and by the second half of the novel, I was just as surprised as everyone else by the events unfolding on the page.

I couldn’t get enough of it.

For me, that method of writing is the ultimate escape. The best sort of adventure. And I’m utterly addicted to the rush that goes along with it.

That’s not to say that a story written in this manner will always work right off the bat. Revival went through multiple edits before it reached its current state. You’ll almost never crank out a perfect novel on the first go. That’s what revisions are for.

The important thing here is that, if you find your well-structured outline falling to pieces at any point during the writing process, you might do well to take a page out of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and “Don’t Panic.”

Go with it. Let loose the reigns and allow your characters to tell their own story. Worst-case scenario? You write a few chapters before you realize you need to backtrack and try it again.

Best case? The story becomes something greater than you ever imagined. Let the conflicts and events rise organically from your characters, your setting… When you trust your story to develop on its own, you never know where the adventure might take you!

About the Author:
Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, Jena Leigh spent ten years in the mountains of North Carolina before returning home to the lightning capital of North America. A shameless geek, she loves bad sci-fi movies, Skittles, writing cracktastic e-mails to friends and taking shenanigan-filled road trips to faraway concerts. She has a degree in English from Appalachian State University. REVIVAL is her first novel.

To learn more about Jena Leigh and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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