Looking to the Future

Standard
There is one question that everyone, at one point or another, gets asked, and it always stumps me. And my answer usually takes more explaining than either party was prepared for.
 
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? X number of years?
 
My first reaction usually involves a momentary brain choke. Some people may jump immediately into panic mode. It seems like such a simple question but it forces us to stare straight into the great unknown and that can be terrifying.
 
There are some people who have their whole lives planned out. They know exactly what they want to do, exactly who they want to be. They make those of us who aren’t like that wonder what we are doing wrong.
 
I wondered that myself for a while. I wondered if I would ever get anywhere in my life.
 
It took a while, but I finally realized something. There is nothing wrong with me.
 
I just look at things differently.
 
You see, part of why the future is so scary is because of the unknown. Often times in stories the most powerful character is the one that has the ability to see the future. We want to have some sense of control over our lives.
 
The unknown doesn’t have to be scary, though. It can be wonderful.
 
Things in life rarely go as planned. Life is complicated. It is weird. And above all, it is chock full of the unexpected.
 
Its okay if you don’t have all the details figured out. Its okay if all you have is a general idea of where you would like to eventually be. It’s okay.
 
Right now, at this point in my life, given all the variables, I have a general picture of what my life could look like in five years. That is assuming nothing changes.
 
That assumption is what gives me hope. Because things change. There is no telling what amazing opportunities will wander into your life on down the road.
 
If you had told me five years ago that I would be sitting here, working on this blog post after finishing a Twitch stream (and the game I was streaming), with a YouTube channel, a few freelance gigs and plans to launch a podcast or two…I would probably have started laughing after the first few items. I never imagined that my life would turn out this way, but I am so glad it did.
 
Of course, I have plans for the future. A list of things that I would like to have accomplished and a picture of what I want my life to look like. It is all very general, though. Because I want to stay open to whatever comes my way.
 
There are benefits to being flexible, being adaptable. I learned a long time ago to go with the flow because you never know what will happen. Even when it seems like everything is falling apart, you have to find a way to keep going forward.
 
Now, I am in no way telling you to not chase your dreams. By all means, chase it. Even if it seems impossible, never stop chasing your dream.
 
Your chosen job/industry may be hard to get into. I know mine is. It may feel impossible. It is possible, it might be difficult. These things take time, patience, and a fair amount of networking. Find something that will keep you afloat in the meantime. Use that income to fund your dream, and keep your eyes open for any unexpected opportunities.
 
You never know what life may throw your way. Keep your mind open and be ready for anything.
 
Never stop dreaming. And never stop hoping for tomorrow.

How to not Retcon

Standard

I think we can all agree that retconning is bad. We have been there, covered that. Time to move on.

Now, how do we avoid retconning?

I have been putting some thought into this recently. As a writer, I understand how easy it can be to let details slip or lose track of where a particular plot thread was going. As the story grows and morphs, and you move beyond the first draft, things can get lost.

The one I am currently working on has gone through some drastic changes, and it includes possible character name changes part of the way through the book. I’ve trimmed down my cast of characters quite a bit, but there is still a lot to keep track of.

So here are a few things I am going to do to keep my story straight.

Note: there are wonderful programs, such as Scrivner, that help with this but as I do not have any such program, my suggestions will reflect this.

Plot, plot, plot

You may be thinking “duh, we all know how to plot.” Hear me out.

I’ve mentioned before that my current project has gone through a lot of changes. When starting on the most recent draft/iteration, I created a detailed plot outline detailing my idea. Then I talked through the plot with my friend, resulting in some of those points being changed.

I then went back and reworked the plot outline. Its a goal of mine to always have an up-to-date plot outline. The practice may seem like a waste of time, but as your story changes adjusting your outline can help you easier keep track of the current plot.

Also, by intentionally plotting things out ahead of time and throughout the process, this could help you create a smoother, more coherent plot.

It is easy enough to do and will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

When in doubt, leave it out

Perhaps “keep it vague” is a better way to phrase it.

Picture this:
A writer decides far into the story that they want to do something with a character or the plot that differs from their original plan. They have not built up to this in any way, and chances are they have already hinted that things were going to go differently.

I know I have seen it before and I am pretty sure you have too, at least once. It is super annoying and has a nasty habit of ruining whatever impact that moment might have had.

My solution?

If you aren’t sure where you want to go with something, keep it vague. Don’t give any direct answer as to which way it could go. Even better, leave hints that it could go either way. By leaving it vague or uncertain as to which way something could go, you make the reveal of the truth that much more rewarding.

It can also give you time to consider why you are thinking about doing whatever it is. If it is important to the plot, great. If it is for shock value, maybe reconsider. But that is a topic for another time.

Make a cheat sheet

This relates back to the first point about keeping an up-to-date plot outline.

Odd names for people and places. Important objects that exchange ownership. Convoluted plot threads. If there is a chance you could forget or lose track of things in your story, consider creating a cheat sheet.

Keep records of your characters, how to spell their names, their backstories, how they are related to the others. Write down what they look like and make notes of when that might have changed.

Trace the ownership of important items and note what was going on when they changed hands.

Use the highlighter to visually mark important events and add them to your cheat sheet.

Yes, tools like Scrivener make this much easier, but there are ways to function without them. Use whatever tools you have at your disposal to keep your story straight.

Get more eyes

Lastly, it helps a lot to have a second pair of eyes. Get a friend or someone you trust to read over your work.

I know you have spent hours upon hours pouring over your work. That is part of the problem. You are so familiar with every single word that you are bound to miss things. By having someone who has never seen it before (that may or may not already know the story), you are increasing the likelihood of catching any slip-ups.

I have done this for friends before and helped catch some name mix-ups as well as things that were not made clear. It can be hugely beneficial and, by giving it to a friend, you know you can trust their advice. Also, they are less likely to tear your work into tiny little pieces.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to hire an editor. Those are needed too.

Hopefully, you will find these tips and tricks useful when tackling your next literary adventure.

Next week we are going to be tackling one of my favorite questions and the uncertainty it can cause.

As always if you have any questions or comments, leave them down below. I am always looking for new topics to cover!

Until then!