A Writer’s Life: The Second Principle

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

This week I rewrote part of the plot of my book.  I had a great idea that would make the book deeper, improve character, explore the world!  Best of all it didn’t require me re-plotting major elements or the ending, while it made the ending more powerful.

It’s just I didn’t want to do it.

I had this gut-level resistance to re-plotting.  In retrospect it was a dumb attitude to take, and I think it was just that I don’t like to change plans.  I always fear things will never get done.

Then I recalled the Second Agile Principle, which states:

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

I’m using Agile to manage my life and my writing, and if you’re not familiar with Agile, it’s worth studying up on. Agile is a philosophy of good organization that has inspired and taken guidance from many business processes.  Adsorbing and leveraging change is a big part of Agile (which is kinda the reason for the name).

When I thought of that principle, it struck me how stupid my resistance to change was.  Change was inevitable, so you should find a way to use it.  As I thought it over I realized how beneficial change was:

  • Feedback inspires change.  So being willing to change lets you incorporate feedback.
  • Changes lets you fix problems, perhaps even before they start, making something better (or making something you don’t need to improve later)
  • Change lets you learn.  A changed requirement, the need to edit a story, a new plot idea teaches you something.  Change lets you learn.
  • Change means review, so as you adapt to changes it requires you to review and stay intimate with what you’re writing.
  • Change keeps your mind limber so you adapt.

Notice that most of these relate to the quality of the work.  The ultimate goal of change is to make sure what you’re creating gets better.  If you don’t change, if you aren’t open to change, then are you really sure your work is going to be the best it can be?

What’s interesting is, after I admitted I had to replot part of the story, the new outline is not only better, I had all sorts of insights on improving the story further (most of them far less invasive).  I was also much more aware of the story and it felt more alive because I’d let it change.

I may still have to fight the urge to “write not replot,” but I think this experience has helped me embrace change better as a writer.  Perhaps I’ll have more insight on this in the future.

I probably will, as change is inevitable . . .

– Steve