Twists and Turns.

“The expected is just the beginning. The unexpected is what changes our lives.”
~Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy)

Someone needs to tell Shonda Rhimes and the Grey’s writers that they are seriously geniuses when it comes to crafting the beginning and end of episode voiceovers for Meredith. There are so many excellent ones that really make you stop and think. And isn’t that the mark of compelling writing, whether it’s in a television show, novel, or something else? It lingers in your mind long after the words have been read or spoken, resonating deeply and resounding with an inspiring impact. Writing like that draws us in, makes us crave more, helps us gain some insight not only into the characters’ lives, but also our own.

And this quote? For me, it was love at first sight. It so perfectly encapsulates the perspective I’ve gained over the past few years. Yes, we can plan. We can draw up a road map for where we want to go, what we want to be. I firmly believe in the importance of taking life by the reins and helping steer it in the direction we want to go. Sometimes that road twists and turns, though. Sometimes something unexpected pops up. Instead of running from it, why not embrace it? Why not take a chance and let it change our lives? Sure, it might not always happen. Not every unexpected experience is a good one. Some of them are great, though. Some of them take our lives by storm, turn them upside down, and weave the beginnings we planned into threads of joy and patchworks of hope.

Wednesday marked three years since the day I rediscovered the joy of creative writing. What made me sit down at the computer that day and start what I believed would be a short story, I still don’t know. What I do know, though, what I’ll be forever grateful for, is that it instantly reignited the spark of inspiration I’ve always gotten from the craft. To say writing my novels has been a work of heart really is an understatement. It’s taught me so much – about my characters, about my passions, about myself. I wouldn’t trade those lessons learned for anything. Did this journey start out as an unexpected one? Had I spent the past seven years envisioning myself as a journalist instead of an author? Yes. And I truly enjoyed all the journalism work I did … I loved it, in fact. But writing these books, telling these characters’ stories, it’s a passion like I can’t describe. It was unexpected in the best way, and it absolutely changed my life.

I’m a week and a half into the querying process for Reflections of Me, and to say I’m elated to already have two requests for material (one partial, one full) would be a huge understatement. This book is my baby like I can’t even describe – it has been from day one – and I’m hoping and praying that the agents like it, too. It would be nothing short of a dream come true. While I’m waiting to hear back (and checking my email way too often – seriously, I’ve decided it’s impossible not to), I’m working on more queries, more writing, and hopefully soon, the start of my official planning for the novel’s sequel. I have an idea for its format that I’m really, really excited about, and I can’t wait to dive in and start playing around with the plotting and outlining. There too, though, I’ve learned to appreciate the unexpected. Letting the characters lead the way resulted in a twist to my original plans for ROM, and I am so glad. That new direction was just what it needed.

What about you? Have you ever taken a leap of faith and followed the unexpected? Has it changed your life? And on another note entirely, any fun weekend plans? I’m taking a page out of the message of this post and heading to NYC with a friend to see Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises. The plan was to go next month, but when discounted fifth row seats came up … how could we NOT take them? So, so excited to finally see her live — she’s such an inspiration!!


12 thoughts on “Twists and Turns.

  1. My favorite thing about writing is the plot twists that occur when your characters take on a life of their own, that inner dialogue where you argue with a character, “But that’s not what I want you to do,” and they shoot back, “I don’t exist just to do what you want me to do! I have my own story to tell!” It’s a strange slightly euphoric experience, to see something you created take on a life of its own.
    The world is fortunate that you sat down at the computer on that day three years ago. I can’t wait to read every one of your novels when they’re published.

    • First of all – you are so sweet, Jena. Thank you for all your kind words and your constant support. It truly means more than I can possibly say.

      Second – I couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote. It’s exciting when your characters take on a life of their own like that and you can see them making the decisions that suit that part of their journey so well. It can be frustrating when they insist on doing something you know is a mistake, but it can also be gratifying when they make a choice that shows how much they’ve learned. Like you said, it really is a euphoric experience! :-)

  2. I regret to say that I am entirely unproductive. I feel very unskilled and void of ideas and inspiration. I resign myself to do anything but creative writing.
    I think you are brilliant.
    Do you work from home as a freelancer also?
    Do you want television or take mindless breaks? You seem very dedicated and it makes me question my true capabilities.

    • You know, I think one of the most important things I’ve learned through this journey is that you can’t force yourself to write. When you put so much pressure on yourself, it takes away the joy behind it and you get stuck in a nonstop cycle you can’t get out of. Don’t let yourself feel resigned. When you let go of those feelings, that’s when the inspiration will come naturally :-)

      And yes, I definitely take breaks! I think they’re so, so important. As much as I adore writing, I know it’s not possible to work all the time. Television, reading, hanging out with friends … I always make an effort to make time for other things, too!

      • So true. How do I just “let go” though…I feel this insane pressure.

        Do you also have a full-time job during the day?

        I tend to do freelancing all morning-early afternoon…so I have no desire to even dabble in a bit of creativity.

        Maybe I need to devote more time simply to reading….currently reading the second book in the Hunger Games series. Are you a fan of adult-youth fantasy?

        • It’s definitely much easier said than done, I know that for sure. For me, it really helped to focus on things that were relaxing – taking walks, reading, spending time with friends, etc. Turning my attention to that helped the pressure dissipate. Learning to let go was honestly one of the most important lessons I learned while writing my last novel, and I got proof of that this time around, because that pressure wasn’t there. All I felt was excitement and love for the work :-)

          I do freelancing, too, but I’ve found it works best for me to work on my novels first. That quiet time early in the morning is the perfect setting for me and helps jump start my thinking process. Oh, and yes, I agree with devoting time to reading! I’ve been reading like crazy this year and I’ve found it’s not only wonderful in its own right, but it can really help the creative process, too. I’ve never read the Hunger Games, but so many people have raved about the books that I definitely want to!

  3. Following where characters lead has always taken me strange (sometimes good, sometimes weird, sometimes really illuminating) places. But when it feels right, it’s because it usually is but my brain just can’t see what my gut does yet.

    The idea that we can have such love and faith for something that we’re willing to blindly follow where it can lead… that takes a lot of guts and optimism. So far, every choice I’ve made that felt right in my heart but logically terrifying in my head has worked out for me (and eventually the brain caught up with the heart and agreed it was a good choice retrospectively).

    And, ooh, Promises, Promises! My friend saw it and loved it — mostly because of Kristin Chenoweth (I ADORE her!). 5th row sounds phenomenal. Have an amaaazing time!

    • It’s definitely an interesting concept, that’s for sure. The whole process of letting the characters lead and following them blindly can seem intimidating ( I remember being caught so off-guard the first time it happened), but like you, I’ve found that doing what feels right, no matter what my brain is thinking, is always the best path. Sometimes you just have to listen to your heart and your instinct (and your characters!).

      Out of curiosity – have you ever gone back and changed something that was the result of characters leading the way? Not the good or illuminating places, of course, but any of the others? I always find it so interesting to hear about everyone’s process when it comes to things like that.

      And thank you!! I’ve been a fan of Kristin’s for a long time, too, and am so, so excited to go tomorrow!! :-)

      • Oh I’ve absolutely changed things. I usually let the characters have the most control in a first draft but when I’m in the later drafts and I feel the story on a very *present* level in my head, I definitely change what needs to be changed to fit the story and the characters better. By then, I like to think I know what’s best better than they do! But then, by that draft, I know the characters well enough to know their motivations, what they’d do in a given circumstance, so even if I change the original circumstance or conversation, what I finish with still feels right, even if it is very different plot-wise or emotional-wise from where I started. That probably doesn’t make sense! (Oh for being vague!)

        My plots always seem to change around a bit to fit the characters better as I come to know them, but I come to know them by having them experience the plot. Which is why revision has become almost more interesting and exciting for me than the first draft stage. A first draft is full of freedom but I feel like I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t feel comfortable in the world, I don’t feel in control because the characters are mostly leading the way. And as I am a weeeee bit of a control freak (hahaha) I think that’s another reason I like the revisions better. I can re-arrange or alter the pieces to my liking but have the confidence that it’s not only to my liking but to what fits the characters now that I know them.

        Gosh I am rambly and very unclear! But I loooove talking about process with writers to, because I am absolutely fascinated at how different it can be for everyone!

        • I’m usually super rambly too, so I know exactly where you’re coming from ;-) You weren’t unclear at all, though. Everything you said makes perfect sense. I’m so intrigued by it all and how the process can be so different for every writer. You have to love that, though, how there’s such a freedom in terms of which methods and techniques work best for different writers.

          I’m very much the opposite with my revisions. I do a first round of them as I write (after I finish each chapter and then again before I begin the next), and I’ve found that does wonders for keeping myself in the mindset of my characters all throughout. My subsequent drafts tighten things up a lot (it’s the wordiness again, haha), but I’ve found that I don’t deviate too much from the initial circumstances. There are definitely cases when that happens, but they’re not too frequent.

          I completely get what you mean about understanding the characters’ motivations better as you get deeper into the process. Being able to craft a conversation/storyline/plot turn around your characters’ personalities and complexities is so important – and so invigorating, don’t you think? It’s so much fun to watch them come alive and flourish. I can definitely be a control freak, too, but I think this is the one instance when I genuinely love to let go of that and listen to what feels right.

          I’m looking forward to reading your books one day!! :-)

  4. Keeping my fingers crossed that good things come for this book. :D

    And, I totally agree regarding the way the writers of Grey’s piece together the beginning narration and Meredith’s closing words. I’m iffy about a lot of the plot lines and some of the dialogue, but the words they choose for Meredith’s reflections are always lovely, like they come right out of a best-selling novel.

    • Thank you so much!! :-)

      Oh, I love your analogy. For as much as dialogue can drive a novel, I really feel like those words of reflection play such an important role, too. It’s something that always pops out at me when I’m reading and something I really make a point of considering when I write. You’re so right, that’s exactly what Meredith’s narration and closing words feel like, something straight out of a bestseller. Plots aside, those are the parts of the episodes that end up lingering – and resonating – even after the show is over.

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