Oh look. A squirrel!

This may come as a shock to you but I’m a planner. I plan things. A lot. And I like planning things. I like doing plotcards. I like sketching out new ideas from start to finish. I like outlining every single chapter that’s going to appear in a book.

But here’s the problem with being a planner. If you’re like me, you also like shiny things. While this is great when you’re looking for a new idea to plan, it’s not so great when this happens:

Do-dodo… carefully following outline… do-dodo… staying true to meticulously planned arc… do-dodo… making sure to OH LOOK A SQUIRREL! KA-POW!!! Entire outline blows up.

Is it necessarily a bad thing when a squirrel enters your tight plot? Maybe, maybe not. You can go back and write the squirrel in from the beginning. You can find a way to make the squirrel an integral part of the main character’s transformation. But ask yourself this first: do I need the squirrel or am I just adding him because I’m bored and he’s shiny? If it’s the latter, maybe it’s time to walk away from the book. Read something else. Start something else. Then, after a while, come back and ask yourself if you need the squirrel again. If it really works, leave it. If not, prepare yourself for feedback that sounds something like this:

I really liked the scene where the nuns are studying in the Vatican library but I felt like the flying squirrel came out of nowhere.

Category: On Writing