A Writer’s View: Timey-Wimey

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Plotting stories, and indeed writing them, is a process of discovery.  A discovery at the end of your tale changes what you think of the beginning.  Closing a scene helps you find a theme that alters the scene.  A character you thought you new surprises you.

Writing, in the words of a certain madman with a blue box is Timey-Wimey.  You finds things out about your world out of order.

We’re frustrated with this because our work feels unreliable, unpredictable, almost as if it’ll betray us.  Ever encounter someone who treated their stories and characters with suspicion?  Yeah, you probably have – it may have been you.

I’ve found that we have to accept this.  Simply put, writing encompasses such breadth of possibilities there’s always a bit of unpredictability, of discovery.  If it’s too predictable, it’s not a creative act.

What we can do is embrace this timey-wimey, acknowledge it, minimize the negative effects, and maximize the positive.

First, be open to the timey-wimey.  Accept that things change, that you’ll have these amazing insights, and that the act of plotting and writing reveals new depths.  This back-and-forth  of do-find-redo makes your work alive.

Secondly, learn to use these insights.  Figure the best way to find them, embrace them, and apply them.  Maybe you keep timelines, maybe you iteratively improve things.  Maybe you have to accept some rewriting.  Maybe you keep extensive notes.  Find a way to make the timey-wimey issues a tool.

Third, don’t fight it.  This is just part of the creative process.  You may have great onslaughts of ideas, or have to accept you can’t tweak a story anymore.  Run with it and make good work first, don’t get lost in frustration or fiddly bits.

Fourth, accept imperfection.  At some point it’ll be good enough to be as good as it needs to be.  Don’t run with the timey-wimey aspects of work so long you’re revising forever.

I’ve found a huge key to using the timey-wimey creativity, and writing in particular is:

  • To improve iteratively.  Engage in gradual review of your work.
  • Gradually deepen your work.  Start with simple ideas and improve them over time, going deeper, adding detail.
  • Every time you go a bit deeper into your work, review the big picture a bit more.
  • Work out a system to do these reviews and do them regularly.
  • Practice!

A lot of this is like Agile practices – which I’ve also been working with.  Agile is about iterative improvements, and is a good mindset for a writer.

– Steve