A Writer's Agony: decisions, decisions, decisions
The agony associated with being a writer is well earned. It’s no small wonder most writers’ faces are permanently frozen in scowls, grimaces, and glares or that they are rumored to take to the drink.Do you know how many decisions writers face? It usually starts with the story. What is my story anyway? Does it come from within or from the world around me? Is it enough to spin a plot? Then there’s the cast. Who will tell my story? Occasionally a character will pop into a writer’s head with so strong a voice, the story begins there. Where will the story take place is a critical choice for a writer. Setting can become an actual character in a book. Where does the writer want to take her reader? Where will readers want to go with the writer? Next comes, how will the story be told? Now we get into the nitty-gritty decisions, the ones writers like to debate when they’re avoiding writing their stories. Will the story be told intimately from the first person point of view, limiting the perspective to that of one person who essentially narrates his own story? Or will it unfold through the third person multiple point of view where a small cast shares what is happening with the readers providing several outlooks but creating a distance?Perhaps the writer will decide to take a chance and try something criticized when it goes wrong, but acclaimed when it works. Maybe the writer will switch from first person to third person point of view in various chapters. She might even dare to break the cardinal rule that one should remain with a single character’s point of view for each scene or chapter and switch point of view from one character to another. Writers are admonished that such a choice can only lead to disaster. Tell that to the writer who decided to do it anyway and landed on the New Times Best Seller list at #1 many times.The decision about what tense to use is enough to make a writer more than tense. Most stories are told in the past tense, but there is a growing trend to use the present tense. Should the writer stick with the tried and true or venture into the present tense and see if it works? I thought I knew the answer to this one because I usually dislike reading books written in the present tense. Until I recently loved a book and only realized it was written in the present tense at the end.Oh, there are so many more choices along the way, but the ultimate choice is where does the writer leave the reader. Sobbing into a ball of tissues soggy with tears? Giddy with the knowledge the cast has set off for happily ever after? Or scratching his head, wondering?With so many decisions to be made, it’s easy to understand how writers often procrastinate. But where else could you find a job that allows you the freedom to make choices? I’m trying to pay less attention to the rules, to relish the choices, and to remember, “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
Somerset Maugham.What painful choices have you made as a writer?