Writing by the seat of my pants is not always the wisest way to go about creating the novel of your dreams.
I have learned this to be true.
I have also learned that having a stiffly constructed plotline kills my creativity.
There is a balance to be had, but I have not yet achieved it. Often times, new Ideas happen like this:
A new, shiny plot point pops into my head while I'm writing trying to figure out if grocery shopping is necessary in the current scene (usually not) and I'm off, like a kitten chasing a ball of string. The problem occurs when that ball of string rolls under a chair or behind a couch or some other obstacle lies in my way.
"Wait a minute!" I cry. "I can't have her in the market place now, the rascally Merchant will see her and tell her of the nefarious plot which will spoil the scene between Viola and her lover when she learns the truth in the Cathedral!"
Ah! So frustrating ... and such a waste of time!
I have found that the best way to find a (fairly) happy middle is to get an outline. Not one that breaks down into alpa-numerics, though that works too for those more organized than me. Just an overview like connect the dots for your characters.
Headstrong mermaid rescues human prince while in out-of-bounds area of sea. (set-up_
Falls in Love. (catalyst)
Can't join sweetheart on land (obstacle)
Asks sea witch to change her (plan A)
Voice taken as payment (complication)
Joins prince on land, but cannot communicate who she is (more complication)
He considers her a buddy while he falls for other girl (even more complication)
Now at this point, the story can take a few different paths. If you want to follow Hans Christian Andersen's version, the Little Mermaid finally commits suicide to allow her sweetheart to be happy.
In real life, I hope none of us take that path. Really!
In the Disney version, the Mermaid's friends help her romance the Prince and defeat the Other Girl (who is really the sea witch in disguise).
This is good. It shows the character Doing Something. Taking control of her Destiny.
Even if she needs a fish a crab and a seagull to help her.
(Don't get me wrong, I loved the movie.)
But there are also Path C or Path D or others.
What if she said: "Forget this, I'm going home. This fellow's not worth it. I might have to eat some humble pie and play the Prodigal, but it beats the alternative!"
Or perhaps: "Look at that cute fisherman over there. He sees me for who I really am, a Princess of the Sea. Maybe my life would be happier with a fellow who can see the real me and love me for it?"
Or maybe its a Merman from the sandcastle next door who finally looks so much cuter from her new perspective.
My point is sometimes in writing and in life, we make choices that lead us on a path (of good intentions) that goes nowhere good. But that's what God gave us erasers for. That's what the Backspace key is for and the reason we have words like "rewrite", "edit" and "revise".
If we ever find ourselves written or painted into a corner. Don't just sit there admiring the perfectly squared wallboards. Do an about face, figure out where you started going astray and tiptoe your way back to that point. Then start fresh with your
mistake new wisdom tucked under your arm and make a better choice.
You are the hero/heroine of your own story. Make it a fabulous one!