Wednesday, September 23, 2015

This 'Pantser' Wrote An Entire Chapter by Mistake...And Used It

It's funny how things work out sometimes.

Last Friday, the Norfolk Daily News posted the 16th chapter in its serial run of my novel, THE LONG ROAD TO HEAVEN. 

I lovingly refer to that chapter as "The Mistake."

By nature, I'm a pantser. In other words, I sit down and write with no real outline.

I generally have an idea of the opening scene, the first major plot point and the ending, but my method of getting from here to there looks kind of like one of those silly Family Circus cartoons. You know the ones where Billy traipses all over hell and back, leaving a dotted line behind him?

Yeah, that.

That being said, I usually have a pretty good idea where I want to go next when I finish writing a chapter. I definitely had an idea for Chapter 16 when I wrapped up Chapter 15.

The idea was so clear the main character actually promises a friend  pinky swears it will happen. Everybody knows you can't renege on a pinky swear.

But for some reason unbeknownst to me (but apparently beknownst to my muse), I completely forgot about my main character's prior commitment when I sat down to write Chapter 16 the next evening.

Imagine the irritation of writing a 3,210-word chapter only to realize at the end you meant to write something else.

It looked something like this...

On second thought, I don't have a picture of me looking that irritated, but you get the idea.

I was torqued.

But then I went back and read the two previous chapters to see if there was any way to salvage what I had done. One line in particular -- a quote from a supporting character -- stuck out.

"I've heard some wicked stories about you. Missing studio time in Nashville. Weeklong benders with some shady characters."

After reading that quote, I knew what I needed to do.

As it turns out, The Mistake ended up being the chapter I needed to write. It ended up being just the thing I needed in order to ramp up the serious tension in Chapter 17.

I guess the lesson to be learned from this is sometimes mistakes aren't what they appear to be.

If you want to read how I resolved it, you'll have to check out the Norfolk Daily News' serial installment on Friday or download your own copy of THE LONG ROAD TO HEAVEN on Kindle for just 99 cents.

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Kathryn Harris is a journalist, a weekend blogger, a wife, a mother of two and the author of "The Long Road to Heaven," a novel about finding faith and forgiveness in the aftermath of addiction.

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