Silver Lining

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Vicki Hinze


By nature or force, writers are nimble, flexible people.  They have to be.  When you create something from nothing but the glimpse of an idea, things change often and at sometimes blazing speed.  You can change with them or spend the majority of your time frustrated and banging your head against brick walls.  Most choose to accept change.


As the career progresses, even the most resistant-to-change writers pick up on the fact that when change is upon you, the quicker you accept it and work with the change, the less painful it is for you.  You’re going to go through the process anyway.  You can do it gracefully with minimal upset, or kicking and screaming and being dragged.  Regardless, you’re going through it.  Most choose to take the path of minimal upset—which is not to be confused with the path of least resistance.


Change with minimal upset has benefits that are measurable.  The change has merit.  The path of least resistance is just easiest; no benefit or merit.


By this time in their careers, writers have discovered that changes don’t just flow into the work on a breeze.  More often than not, the subconsicous has identified a challenge, worked it out and presented the change as a solution to the challenge.  Typically, the writer later becomes aware of what the challenge was, though often s/he must write the story to reveal it.


The key point is that when you’re writing along and your Plan A story stops working and changes to Plan B or even to Plan ZZ, you save yourself a great deal of agony and upset by seeking the reason for the changes.  Many years ago, I developed The Hundred Page Rule as a means for dealing with unexpected changes (or twists and turns in my stories. 


When something unexpected forced the story to veer off my planned course, I’d follow it for a hundred pages.  If the changes worked, I’d keep them.  If not, I’d toss them out and pick up the story at the point things changed.  Just having this rule gave me the control and authority I needed to feel comfortable with embracing the change.


In nearly three decades, I don’t recall actually tossing a hundred pages.  Every time, there was a reason for the change that, as the writing went on and the story unfolded, became clear to me.  I don’t remember a single instance when the change was just change for its own sake.  The change was necessary for some reason that hadn’t yet occurred to me or unfolded in my conscious mind.  Because I took the risk and followed the instinct and embraced the change, I didn’t write myself into corners or brick walls.


Some changes, like those I’ve described above, are due to the work itself.  But there are other reasons for changing the work that are related but not as a direct result of the storyline.  Here are a few examples:


1.  You write a story and send it to your editor who requests changes not because what you’ve written doesn’t work but because, while it works, it doesn’t work best for the targeted audience.  Changes are required for the best possible chance of success in matching your story to the established reader base.  Remember, publishers spend a fortune identifying reader bases and targeted audiences.  You and your story benefit from the knowledge they’ve acquired.


2.  Your story too closely mirrors another story about to be published or which has just been published.  Rather than being the fresh-and-original work contracted, if published as written, your book will be deemed an “also ran” or worse, a knock-off of another novel.  That you haven’t read the other novel isn’t germaine.  The perception in the marketplace is what matters.


3.  The market has changed and a novel contracted and then written would have sold well but events or changes in the market have occurred and now, if published without changes, the book is doomed to fail.  Here, think of 9/11.  Now think of your book which includes terrorists using planes to crash into buildings.  That event impacts the book significantly, and not in a positive way.  Changes are essential for the book, the publisher and the author.  Now if the book had been released previously, the author could be deemed by media an expert, or demonized by others for “giving terrorists ideas” or the author could be called upon to work in a think tank projecting what else could be done that as a nation we need to prepare to guard against.  Timing and current events impact.


There are many other reasons that require changes that are out of the author’s control.  The best advice for any of them is for the author to remember the goal:  to create the best book possible with the greatest odds of success in the current market.  The objective is the same for the author and the publisher.  Yours is not an adversarial relationship but a cooperative alliance with a common goal. 


No author likes forced changes.  Understand that.  But if you want to reach your objective—the best, most successful book possible—then it is important to understand that you don’t have to like the forced changes to see the wisdom in making them.  Being upset, depressed, or otherwise negative about the changes do not make them easier to stomach.  Those reactions just add upset where it doesn’t best serve you or the work.


Be nimble.  Be flexible.  Accept that some things you can control and some you cannot.  Expect that your Plan A story well might become a Plan ZZ story by the time it hits the shelves. 


Hang onto that best, most successful book as your goal.  And take deep breaths before you allow yourself to emotionally react to changes or requests for changes.  That reaction is a healthy one that best serves you, the human being, and the work.  The upside is that Plan ZZ stories often are infused with layers of insights and gems of wisdom that earlier versions of the work lack.  That comes as a direct result of your intense, prolonged focus.


Every cloud truly does have a silver lining.  Changes have many silver linings.  Sometimes you unearth them in Plan A, but far more often they reveal themselves in Plan B or C or even in Plan ZZ.  Silver linings that without the changes you would have missed.



writing live


© 2014, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is Down and Dead in Dixie. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com.



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