I’m writing my sixth historical book now—the third in The Legend of the Four Soldiers series—and already I’ve gone off my writing map. Writers generally fall into two groups: ones who plot out their story before they begin writing and those who wing it. I’m in the former camp, but here’s the thing: no matter how meticulously I plot before I write, no matter how much I try to foresee all eventualities, I always end up making detours from my plot.
Detours, in writing as in life, are sometimes frustrating (How do I get back on the main road?) sometimes confusing (Can I get back to the main road?) but usually interesting, and sometimes revolutionary.
About ten years ago my life took a major detour. I was a stay-at-home mom living in the city where I’d grown up, spending what free time I had volunteering in a non-profit organization. Then my husband got a new job. In a different state.
I wasn’t pleased, but my husband was the main breadwinner at that time in our family, so I pulled up my roots, left the non-profit I’d been so active in, and moved away from both family and friends.
And you know what? If I hadn’t made that life detour I probably wouldn’t have started writing. I would’ve stayed in the non-profit organization, stayed near family and friends who kept me busy, and never had the push to start writing a book.
All because of a detour my life took.
The detours that happen in my books are frustrating for me as the writer, but they can be revolutionary for the book. In To Taste Temptation, the first book in The Legend of the Four Soldiers series, I suddenly started writing a scene in which my hero, Samuel Hartley, is running. In London, of all places. Why? I thought. Nobody runs in Georgian England for pleasure. Where is this scene going? Why am I writing this?
Well, as you’ll find out when you read To Taste Temptation, running becomes a central facet to Sam’s character. He runs to forget, he runs for the sheer pleasure of feeling his muscles move, and in a pivotal scene near the end of the book, he runs because his world will end if he doesn’t.
All because of a detour my writing took one day.