To make great change in your life (whether by design or not) we pass through a number of key turning points. Writing focuses us to think about our characters’ turning points, big and small, which show change and growth.
We all have turning points in our own life, but what about the ones in our writing life? What were the pivotal moments that made you decide ‘yes, I’m home, this is for me’?
For this exercise I have followed Michael Hague’s list of Turning Points.
TURNING POINT #1: The Opportunity
Almost every second person you meet today states the age old dream that they have a book inside them. E-publishing has given everybody the chance to be a published author. The ease of e-publishing is a wonderful opportunity for everybody. Today, the only gatekeeper is your own fear.
You see an opportunity to fulfill a dream.
STAGE 2: The New Situation
The new situation begins the moment you sit down and write. You believe your enthusiasm, dreams and work ethic will see you through. This is a new place for you and you feel transformed by all the endless possibilities for you and your story.
Then you hit a few snags (you read your story) and a new reality emerges. After re-writing chapter one a couple of times, you have trouble working out which is the best version, you decide the best place for it is in a box under the bed. You know something is wrong with your story, but have no idea what to do about it.
To move to the next stage you need an unbiased opinion and so you begin the search for a critique partner, someone who can read your work with a clear and honest eye.
TURNING POINT #2: The Change of Plans
By now, you take a deep sigh. You can’t do write and critique on your own. You need help – you google and discover a whole new world and your writing problems appear to be solvable.
Oh, it’s so easy. You’re almost stymied with indecision because there is so much help available on-line. You strike a small bargain with yourself. You’re serious about wanting to write and the characters are still in your dreams. That has to mean something doesn’t it?
So, you join a writing group, find a critique partner and feel at last you’re on your way, and it feels good. You’ve made a positive and strategic move and have gathered a like-minded clan about you, a safe support group.
Strengthened with a new resolve, you decide seek out on-line writing groups, sign-up for writing blogs, and, most importantly, join a few on-line writing courses.
But as you read and learn the problems with your story grow.
STAGE III: Progress
This is a very difficult stage.
You struggle with following the on-line course recommendations and you have endless internal questions – am I a plotter or a pantser? Do I use a character wheel, a story board, or do I spend an afternoon brainstorming with a pen and paper? The choices are endless and you can’t decide what is best. You try them all, and during the process something happens.
You keep re-writing.
The questions keep persisting – can I re-write great scenes? How do I end my story? Where is the best place to start my story?
It is at this stage you are still able to avoid truly committing, because you hide behind the ‘learning’ phase. It’s a wonderful excuse not to produce anything to send out into the world. You want to be perfect and you’re not alone. The classes are full. In your heart you know you’re hiding behind the thought that there’s a lot to this writing gig and you want to be well-prepared. What better way to avoid the real task of writing than by spending time doing another writing course. But, it’s frustrating because you want to finish the story.
TURNING POINT #3: The Point of No Return
Somewhere along the way, beyond the frustrations of learning, re-writing and disappointment of some not so positive feedback from judges, something emerges – an unshakable belief. It is the final key, or the final act that locks commitment into your heart and head. You know right to your bones that you are fully committed to your writing goal.
You’re now prepared to do whatever it takes to write your story and get it published. You’re wiser about what is involved in terms of planning, focusing and working.
Somewhere deep down you’ve made a secret pact with yourself about what success means to you. It could be:
your first book sale;
becoming a NY Times bestseller;
winning a series contract; or
getting an agent.
STAGE IV: Complications and Higher Stakes
After many re-drafts you’re suffering. Tiredness, sacrifice and being selfish begin to take their toll. The world is full of tantalizing distractions and your family is the biggest one. You want and need to spend time with them so you send your completed story out into the world.
Your writing group gives you positive feedback and so does your critique partner. You pay for an independent editor to read it and you blush with the glowing remarks in their report, and quickly fix everything else. You send it to a publisher.
TURNING POINT #4: The Major Setback
Rejection – and for a few hours you sit tight before sharing this awful news. You know what has to be done. You do as any of your feisty characters would do – you straighten your back, look your problem in the eye and resolve to solve the issue.
STAGE V: The Final Push
It is here that the thought of getting published seems insurmountable. You’re blinded by love for your story – it’s perfect. You find it hard to sit down with your writer’s hat on and make it better.
But you do.
As months pass and the distractions mount (as does the guilt), you continue to work on your story and when satisfied, you again send it out into the world.
TURNING POINT #5: The Climax
You hear back – the feedback is positive and you get an offer (or two).
STAGE VI: The Aftermath
You sell your story and bask in the glory for a short time because another story beckons …
We all know the major turning points in our writing life, the ones that propelled us into unknown territory. And we have happily, willingly, carried on writing. I’ve written this piece so that you can recall your major turning point(s) where you decided ‘yes, this is it’, so that when times get difficult you can recall that moment and your resolve is strengthened.