A Rogue State of Mind

Hey, JL! When writing a novel, have you ever had a character go rogue on you and do something you didn’t expect? –Cynthia

Cynthia, great question.

One time, in the middle of writing a novel, I realized that a character was trying to poison her sister and it was a total surprise to me. However, in general, this doesn’t happen. I like the fact that there is at least one facet of my life—that is, my writing—where I can control what happens.

This is certainly not true of my real life.

For example, I recently thought I would try to control the non-existent spider and ant problem in my house. We (my husband and I) decided to take a visiting pesticides control company up on their “great deal” to eliminate spiders and ants in a quarterly non-toxic spraying program around the perimeter of our house. They sold us on their product because we have a 2-year-old and the idea of combining “poisonous spiders” with “young, curious son who likes small moving bugs especially if they have eight-legs” didn’t sit well with me.

Four months into the spraying program, we have a humongous spider and ant problem that didn’t exist before we started spraying. It’s almost as though the spraying has contributed to the problem, not that I’m accusing anybody of false advertising or of creating a bug problem or anything.

Or maybe I might be.

In fact, part of the appeal of writing, to be honest, is the fact that I decide what happens when—even if that means things get more and more awful for the hero or the heroine, at least I’m the one deciding how far to let things go. That is, I’m the God of my novels.

It is perhaps predictable, but arguably positive, that I have to admit that I am not the God of my own life.

Speaking of surprises: I am currently writing a novel that feels completely different than any other novel I’ve ever written. The publisher, who requested the book from me for a series, asked me to write a chapter by chapter outline. If you can believe it, I’ve never done that before. The great thing about writing this way is that you know what happens in each chapter—you just have to make the writing effective. The surprises in that novel are small and few, but they do add up. It’s part of what makes writing fun.


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