Writer’s Toolbag: Opportunity Cost

75468d8a02375f27e89c5bf824422f4eToday I’m writing about the most difficult decision you’ll ever make as a writer.  No.  Not that decision, the other one.  No, the other one.

Okay, really, I’m writing about the tough decisions and how to make those.  These decisions are out there constantly for us as authors, but I’m talking about the big ones when it comes to writing your book.  When you have this great idea that you really love… but you realize it might not work.  Or when you’re halfway through writing a scene for a character and you realize that maybe it will work better if they don’t survive.

Recently for me, writing in my Renegades series, I ran into a tough call as far as the plot and story.  On the one hand, I wanted to set up a situation where a main character ended up in a dangerous situation.  I wanted to increase tension… and I wanted the reader to feel uncertainty about what would happen.

On the other hand, I worried that writing the scene the way that I had would confuse the reader.  It became a decision of what worked better for the story between tension and readability.  I chose to go with the more interesting route and we’ll see how that plays out (squints at the Amazon webpage… still no reviews posted).

So how do you make those decisions?  You weigh the pros and the cons… and then you make the decision and move on.  In economics it is called the opportunity cost.  Whichever way you chose, you give up following the other route.  As writers, we have a bit of flexibility intrinsic to the craft.  We can rewrite, edit, and tweak things.  In the end, though, once you hit publish, the decision has been made and there’s no going back.

To me, making these kinds of decisions (and recognizing when one has come up) is something that grows easier as I write more.  Deciding whether to kill a beloved (or hated) character is, well, not taken lightly, but it becomes a simpler decision to make.  Often times this can be something as simple as which perspective to use when you write a scene or just when to cut that scene.  It might be that you have a line that you love… but it just doesn’t fit the flow of your story.

At its most basic level, the question you should ask yourself is: will this make the story better?  If the answer is yes, then you know what you have to do.  Sometimes it means you can give a character a happy ending.  Sometimes it means you have a character who ends up dying alone.  All of it, all that weight is on your shoulders as a writer.

Books don’t get director’s editions with deleted scenes and outtakes.  No one will ever see that bit that you cut and few people will understand the hours that you spend thinking about it.  Then again, that’s where the skill in writing comes from, knowing how to craft your story better and making those hard decisions.  If writing were easy, everyone would do it, right?

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