When we were in San Diego last week, we were using our GPS to help us find somewhere to eat. With just the press of a button, the GPS told us we were about a mile and a half from a Wendy's. The kids were ecstatic and we set off.
After following several twisty and turny roads, we were within 500 feet of the restaurant. Or so we were told. When we made the last turn, instead of seeing a Wendy's restaurant, we saw SDSU. The GPS had taken us to the university campus instead. (Yeah, I know there could have been a Wendy's in a food court somewhere on campus, but still . . .)
The kids started joking around that because our GPS is old, that maybe SDSU had bulldozed the Wendy's to make the campus. (Sadly, since that wasn't the only time our GPS led us astray on our trip, I'm thinking it's time to update. We seriously cheered when it actually found somewhere for us.)
I was thinking today how that is sometimes like our writing. We're in unfamiliar territory when we're starting a new manuscript. We think we have the direction we want and we cheer on the way there, thinking all is well and we're moving right along to where we want to go. But then we make that last turn and realize where we thought we were going isn't there at all. Then we have to turn around and try again, either in a new direction or detouring around the old until we figure out where to go from here.
That happens to me a lot in my writing. I used to be a total pantser, letting my writing take its own course and seeing where it took me. But as I've written more and more books, I see the need for me to outline, at least loosely, so I have a direction. So many times, however, the direction I thought I was going in ends up not being the way I end up traveling at all and I detour around and find a new path. It's exciting and a little scary, but I think it's made my story stronger and more interesting in the end.
Have you ever had your plot or characters take you in a direction completely different from where you thought you were going?