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Back when I was a kid, I found a choose-your-own-adventure book. It was about an alien who goes to the tropical rainforest in search of an antidote for her poisoned boss. The story was different from anything else I’d experienced. I read it over and over again, trying to combine different answers until I’d seen everything that the book could offer me. Aside from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, that story was probably my favorite.

This last week, I finally broke down and bought Scrivener. While typing up my draft, I kept getting annoyed with this one scene. It’s a scene that I know will be cut in the next draft. However, it’s about 3,000 words and I don’t want to take that many words out of my draft before I have to.

So, with this in mind, I opened a new document in my binder and pasted it in there. I turned the paper icon into a red flag and typed, ‘Dead End Scene’. And suddenly, something clicked.

Looking at that red flag, I realized writing a novel is very much like a choose-your-own-adventure story.

  1. It’s About the Journey

In writing, I’ve had to discover a lot of harsh truths about myself. Every story I write is a special challenge, a special lesson, in what I am and who I want to be. Hemingway was correct when he said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” My writing is far more honest and insightful than I could ever be on my own.

Like our heroes, writers have to go through a journey before they can get what they want. Whether it’s a tangible thing, like a novel, or something more difficult to define, like peace of mind, is an individual goal. However, like our heroes, the important thing is to have the courage to decide to go on that journey, make our own choices, and follow through until the end.

  1. There’s No Wrong Choice…Even When You Pick The Wrong Choice

Authors often talk about writing their characters into corners. But what about when authors write themselves into corners? It happens more often than you’d think! Luckily, writing is like a choose-your-own-adventure story where, when you accidentally die or fail, you can always go back to where you made that choice and change it. No pressure, no problem.

In writing, you can always change direction.

  1. You’ll Always Have A Favorite Path

After I’d read the Amazon story enough times as a kid, I started trying to find ways to get to a certain ending. A few more times reading through it and I had favorite events on the way to the ending. Editing is similar to this in many ways. It isn’t necessarily ‘fixing’ your story as it’s finding your favorite way through the journey. It’s finding what you like and working to make that path the best possible path it can be so others will like it too.

Writing is so much more than just stringing words together. It’s adventure, and magic, and amazing journeys. It’s a love of words and a hope for something that can’t quite be seen. So, whether you’re participating in Camp NaNoWriMo or just writing (is there really any such thing as just writing?) remember that each story is your very own adventure and you can choose what you do with it.

Good luck. You can do this.

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