I’ve had many conversations that lasted for hours, and someone always says, “How did we wind up on this topic?” The later at night the conversation, the weirder the topic in question. I think it’s fun to fumble back through bits of conversation and thought, figuring just how we got from Captain Picard to tofu burgers.
I’ve had writing that goes like that. I’m on target, in the middle of the river, and then I’m off, writing about something completely different, and before I know it, I’m on a tributary, stretching this metaphor for all it’s worth.
Thing is, when I go off on a tangent, I have to figure out whether to get back on track, or to just follow it wherever it takes me. Even if I’m having fun, what I’m writing might not be best for the story. Or it might be just what the story needs. I’ve reedited from the middle before, making the beginning more on line with my tangent. And I’ve written to the very end of a tangent only to find it going nowhere, and I have to backtrack and delete what I’ve done to the point where I wandered off.
This definitely happened during my last project. My ending was fun for me, but wasn’t right for the story. I copied it into a folder, hoping to use it some other time, and rewrote an ending that fit, that worked for the story as a whole.
How do you handle tangents, tributaries in your writing? Do you flow with them and see where they take you? Or do you hold to the middle of the river, jotting down notes on any tangent ideas, but fearing getting lost? Seriously, tell me before I do this river metaphor all day.