Back in November (yes, NaNoWriMo) I started outlining a fairly long and complex story about a strong female character solving mysteries in a dry and dusty world of the distant future. It was fun. The story gained complexity and went in directions I hadn't expected.
One problem, though, was this: I couldn't figure out how to end it.
Basically I had two options, both of which involved the main character making a difficult choice. Neither of these options really satisfied me, though. In fact, the option that I liked better was the least realistic choice based on the characters I had developed.
What to do, what to do?
Well my initial thought was to re-work the characters, but by the time I gave in to that idea I had already plowed through 60,000 words and felt really good about the characters as I had originally envisioned.
This indecision led to months of no progress on the actual writing of the story as I sat in writer's limbo.
Finally, a few days ago, I approached my long time friend and asked if he's read through my first draft - mainly just looking to see if the concept worked for him. He read a bit of it and a day or two later we talked about it. After his criticisms we talked about where the story was going, problems I hadn't resolved yet, and so-on.
At last, I revealed my deep dark secret. I presented my options to him. He agreed it was going to be tough to decide which would be best. Not too long afterwards he said "You know, you could always really mess with the readers..." He described a world which veered wildly from my chosen outline. It was entertaining, but not what I wanted to do.
Then the light bulb turned on over his head. I saw it in his left eyebrow as it lifted gradually towards his hairline.
"There's a third option..." he said.
And he was right. It was satisfying. It was surprising. It changed everything and forced characters together in uncomfortable and exciting ways.
So the message is this: Write with your friends. You don't need to actually write with them, obviously, but get people involved who can see things from the outside. We writers are a naturally secretive, suspicious and reclusive group of people. We tend to hide not just our writing but our ideas like it was a precious treasure. It may be time to change that behavior.
Find friends who can share your passion and excitement and work together. You'll be glad you did.