The Under Ground Writing Project

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Why Writing It Wrong Can Be Right

Posted by Ali on August 29, 2012 at 11:10 AM

   In the process of revising the novel, I rearranged a scene. I moved it and changed it up a bit and was happy that I'd made it work. Later on, I hit a scene where the emotions didn't jibe with what was going on in the rearranged scene. As I was about to go to sleep that night, I realized I'd fixed the first scene wrong.


In the morning, I re-fixed. Later, I hit on a cool article from Psychology Today that's all about figuring out the right thing to do by exploring the wrong thing. The article focuses on dealing with challenges in real life, but who cares about that? I'm talking writing here.


Have you ever written a scene or a chapter and really poured your heart into it? Then, you got a little farther along, following that path where it naturally led, and suddenly realized you were going in the wrong direction? Congratulations, you're doing it RIGHT! You're just exploring an exercise in innovative thinking.


The article points out, "For example, you could explore a possible resolution to your challenge that you already know is definitely wrong, and yet explore that path in great detail." So, go ahead and write that plot dead end. It's cool, because, "Now you could isolate each mistaken feature of that erroneous ‘solution’ and carefully examine exactly why it is wrong. If you were as specific as possible in where the defects lie, you would force yourself to be clearer and more insightful about the situation at hand."

By writing it wrong, you're figuring out how to write it right. You're experiencing the lesson of, "Oops, that doesn't work. Why not?" So, soldier on. The more bombed scenes you write, the better you'll be at figuring out what really needed to be there. The key is to be thoughtful about what's not working.


Embrace your writing goofs. They're your best teachers!


I leave you with a related Terry Pratchett quote, "Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom."

Categories: Writing Process, Advice, Revision/Rewriting

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1 Comment

Reply Jenny Maloney
2:39 PM on August 29, 2012 
Oh my goodness - right now I'm writing so much wrong that I must be learning a ton.

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