4. Write from the center of the paradox.

4. Write from the center of the paradox.

Think of your story as a contract with your readers, an agreement that you will entertain, surprise and satisfy them. Every choice that your characters make has an implication; every promise you make needs to be fulfilled. The more promises you break, the less readers will trust you. And often, when readers put a book down, that’s exactly why—they’ve stopped trusting that you’re going to fulfill the promises you’ve made.

Here are some common ways that outliners may break their contracts with readers:

Foreshadow something and fail to make it significant.

Introduce a character, make readers care about her, and then drop her from the story.

Develop conflict and then fail to resolve it in a satisfactory way.

Have characters act in unbelievable ways.

Organic writers are well-equipped to make big promises and then keep them. We’re never directionless, because we can always work on scenes that fulfill promises we’ve made earlier, or go back and foreshadow the fulfillment of promises we think of as the story takes shape.

In storytelling, what will happen informs what is happening, and what is happening informs what did. You cannot know where a story needs to go until you know where it’s been, but you cannot know where it needs to have been until you know where it’s going.

It’s a paradox.

And that’s part of the fun.

I find it helpful to discard the idea of a first draft and think of writing the entire story as an integrated whole. As you pay attention to the choices your characters make and let the implications of their choices play out on the page, you’ll find yourself writing your story forward and backward at the same time, weaving in narrative elements to create your work intuitively rather than mechanically

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