♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Who’s the boss, you or the story?
Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop! The authors included in this ongoing series wish to thank you for your reads. We appreciate, even more so, when you share our writings with your friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Prepare to become a regular reader.
Bossing a story isn’t wiser than letting a story boss you. Although that doesn’t definitively answer the question, you know I’m going to get into it! So here we ago about who’s the book boss. Ready?
As in business, so with writing. A writer needs to learn how to be an effectual supervisor. A writer has to know what their process is, and thus the goal. They also need to know how to adapt throughout the process in order to reach that goal. Being the book boss is indeed one of your hats. That said, what the book needs is what rules how you’ll accomplish that goal.
This essentially means that your role and execution of the role will adapt, if you’re going to be successful, to each publishing endeavor. It’s as easy as that–on the surface. Some writers think that letting their character rule them and tell them where to take things is the ultimate justice to a story or, in the least, the best practice for getting characters to play along. They protest against being the book boss–like parents who see their role as their child’s friend instead of their parent.
Does letting your workers do whatever they feel necessary to accomplish their tasks work in real life? It doesn’t. That’s why there are supervisors, and all of the other internal controls within a business. If you see your book as a project (work), you’ll start to see the similarities. This way, you assure yourself that your workers (characters) will get their tasks done, and you’ll have a well-written work by your deadline.
What if your characters aren’t cooperating? What if they demand that they know better than you and can lead this charge, if only you’ll get out of their way? Well, this is one place where you need to be flexible. Like in business, good supervisors hear out their supervisees. They work discrepancies out with their help. If that character (worker) does in fact know what they’re doing, you let them take charge of their assigned tasks. However, you need to make it clear that they’re wholly responsible should something fall apart, and will need to work with you to a solution.
Many authors find characters running rough-shod over their vision, and it’s important to regulate and temper that energy. You know those book-boards that you see writers using–the one’s with the colorful postcards that remind you of a CSI Suspect map? Those are excellent for reining in those unruly individuals.
The fact is, you cannot just let your book do whatever it will however it will do it. It may seem that you do, but choices are made all along the way that flesh out the book. Not all decisions are those of the characters and not all your decisions will dominate the story. Writers find stories leading them in other directions they had not predicted when they started. How do you keep things on track?
No one answer will fit all projects. One solution would be to outline, but for pantsers like me, that’s too binding. The issue is, I know writing isn’t always easily controlled, because there are many variables ahead that I have yet to surmise. Those variables require on the spot decisions, and sometimes they require deliberation. Then, there are those instances when your writing opens up questions, reveal plot holes, and demand resolution before the structure tumbles to the ground a failure. Books require someone to be in the role of book boss from time to time.
Don’t sweat it. You haven’t hit the publish button yet. This is a good thing! You want to find the problems before you present the work to the public. All of those questions require a boss and their team to work together for a brilliant solution that strengthens the work. This is part of the job!
If you decide to let one character or even a few run the show, you’ll get chaos. That chaos may work for some narratives. I’m not going to tell you it always fails, because that would be lying. However, you must be quite skilled to manage this successfully. Controlled chaos isn’t for the faint of heart. It can cause anxiety and poor decision making, because constantly responding to problems and cleaning up messes is taxing! It saps your mental energy. Besides, it risks showing a lack of focus.
A lot of writers think it’s cool to attempt to controlled chaos. That writing in this manner proves they have brilliance. Yet, the reviews that come back are scathing. Controlled chaos is actually deftly planned, not pantsed. It requires a great deal of focus and the ability to multitask (all those variables are out there requiring reasonable resolution). I don’t recommend it without a lot of experience under one’s belt that makes you qualified (and no, it doesn’t have to be in writing and publishing).
My best advice, and how I manage my own work, is to step into the role of supervisor. Listen well to your workers, and keep the end goal in focus. Be flexible, but discerning. Not every solution is the solution you need.
In addition, you also must be flexible enough to try again when you fail, not repeating the mistake that led you down the wrong path in the first. Let those workers who know what they’re doing have their space to do their work. (Training in supervisory skills is actually a fantastic intertext to have for writing.) Just as important: know when you need to be hands on/off, or even gently lead (leadership/supervisory skill). Some characters will require a firm hand. Others will bristle at their fate. Some cannot be inspired to do anything at all. Recognize the worker type, and use their strengths to support the project. Take weaknesses as clues for where attention is needed.
Let’s hop on over to see how the other authors see themselves in relation to a book boss. Not every author accomplishes their projects with the same style. What works for them won’t be exactly the same as you or anyone else. This is the beauty of art.
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Richard Dee says
Complete stories appear in my head, like watching a film. It appears that it has been all decided long before it gets anywhere near me. My sole function is to write it down. Strangely, everything seems to work out that way, if I object, I’m ignored anyway.
Captain Maiel says
I find things still change when necessary for me, regardless of this. Do you?
P.J. MacLayne says
A wise supervisor knows when to step out of the way and letting good employees do their job.Finding the line of when to allow that to happen is the challenge.
Captain Maiel says
phil huston says
Letting them do the work is the best part. If the wheels come off during some random improv I simply remove that material. I figure it’s like jamming to find a good hook. I’ve been known to let it go a hundred pages down a rabbit hole and back track like a director to where the skit went south and say “Okay, take it from the dynamite again, without Tucker and Penrod.”
Captain Maiel says
I’ve found that wastes too much of my time and effort. Sometimes, sure, it happens, but I’ve gotten away from letting that happen.
Stevie Turner says
Yes indeed we authors are supervisors of our own work. We have the power to make our characters do just what we want. It’s all up to us.
Captain Maiel says
It’s true. And our styles are just as diverse.