I remember when Naomi Kritzer first joined Wyrdsmiths and she was worried that she might write herself into a corner and never be able to finish the novel she’d started. At the time, I told her with utter confidence that it was simply not possible to get stuck like that. Besides, I said, you’re a good writer; it’s just _not_ going to happen to you.
Luckily, she believed me and went on to finish what would become FIRES OF THE FAITHFUL and TURNING THE STORM.
Now, I find myself wondering if I lied – not to Naomi, mind you, but to myself.
I always thought that the fear of writing one’s self into a corner was completely groundless. Words are erasable, after all. Any corners you might wander into (speaking, of course, as an organic writer,) are either solvable by rolling with it and thinking up some clever escape plan for your protagonists… or by simply hitting the delete button until the “corner” disappears.
In a lot of ways, the fear of writing one’s self into a corner is really the fear of revision. The fear that you could, as I have, write a novel for a year and realize (a month before the deadline, no less,) that the story you’ve written isn’t really about the person you wrote it about, but that other guy whose been tagging along the whole time. I had this utterly terrifying discovery while writing APOCALYPSE ARRAY and ended up throwing out over two-hundred manuscript pages and completely re-writing a third of the novel – all in the month before the book was due on my editor’s desk. It was the only time in my life I was grateful for having been laid off a job. It was a hell of a corner to erase, but I did it. Our heroes made their clever escape.
However, I must admit that this is one of the biggest problems with my particular style of writing – that is to say, organically, without an outline, without a net. You can make pretty painful mistakes. I’m still not entirely sure I believe you can write yourself into a place that ends your story prematurely. Not permanently, anyway.
Sometimes, though, the entire structure is rotten and you have to tear the whole thing down, keeping only the core idea to build back up on.
And, I’m forced to admit, constitutes officially writing yourself into a corner. Luckily, I’m still half right. A good writer will survive it, regardless.