by +AneMulligan @AneMulligan

Have y’all see the Jeep Compass commercial about recalculating? The voiceover says things like “Go straight to a steady job.” The girl looks up at the building and turns. The voiceover says, “Recalculating.” Another voiceover announces, “Stay single till you’re thirty-four.” Then we see a male hand holding out an engagement ring, and the voice over exclaims, “Recalculating.”

When I turn off the main road to get gas, my GPS recalculates quickly and gives me instructions how to get back on my chosen path. I suppose, as with driving, it’s not so very hard to recalculate your life. After all, you made the decision to change directions. In 2003, I made a decision to write full time and left the corporate world. It was a calculated recalculation.

But recalculating isn’t as simple in novel writing. In fact, it can make an author bang her head against the wall. In one of my books, I was merrily writing away when the character … turned and looked up into the greenest eyes she’d ever seen.

Wait! That wasn’t part of the plan. I wasn’t writing a romance. This character was the deuteragonist. Nothing more than the vehicle for the protagonist to gain her heart’s desire. But planned or not, there I was with romance staring me in the face. I decided to recalculate and follow that path. It worked.

In my current manuscript, I realized I had a threat hanging over my Main Character’s head, but I hadn’t made it actually happen. And I needed to. So I recalculated and did the worst thing that could happen. I wrote the scene and several others in chronological order (the only way I’m ever logical).

But this time my recalculation didn’t work. I had taken what was essentially the black moment and moved it up way too early. A recalculation that got me lost. There was no way I could sustain for sixty thousand words, the emotional level that it now needed. The story would become dark and depressing—and not what I write.

So once again, I found myself recalculating, taking apart the story and saving some scenes for revisiting at a better time.

What do you do when a story needs to be recalculated?

This is where I envy the SOTP writers. They can simply follow the new direction. They’re not concerned about if it works or not, they simply follow the new path. They’ll worry about the editing later.

I can’t do that. I’m not a pantster … I’m a planster. So, I consulted my map, the plan. In this story, the miscalculation won’t work. My story is about more than the resolution of one event. It’s about the camaraderie between the characters, building strong friendships (and all that entails) that will carry the MC through the worst thing that can happen to her.

While novels aren’t formulaic, certain things have to happen to make a good read. My Book Therapy has The Story Equation that works in any genre. James Scott Bell has a structural plan in Plot and Structure that works in any genre. I’ve found if I vary off the tried and true path of story structure, I’m going to have to recalculate.


Recalculating by Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Running into trouble when veering from good story structure~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Recalculating a plot isn’t as easy as changing directions~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Life in Chapel Springs
Life in Chapel Springs has turned upside down and inside out.

Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure—but it isn’t easy. Between her twins’ double wedding, a nationwide art tour and her health, life is upside down. Shy Lacey Dawson was happily writing murder mysteries for the community theater, but a freak accident results in traumatic injuries. When the bandages come off, Lacey’s world is tuned inside out. Gold has been discovered in Chapel Springs and the ensuing fever is rising.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.