Long ago, in my late 20s, I found that establishing a rough ending to any fiction story whether it be a novel or short story was necessary to avoid wild uncontrollable tangents.
I don’t believe in writer’s block
After establishing a rough ending, then in the course of the story, most often a novel I have a rush to get to the end.
“Let’s get this over with,” I say to myself.*
“I’m tired of working on this. Let me move on to something else I’m not going to finish… yet.”
When the magical thinking tangent happens
So I write an intelligent action story with plot points, twists etc. I know I’m off base when I start to set up something (a tangent) that’s about to introduce super powers inconsistent with the powers that be and set the story in a different less character intimate magical thinking type thing.
When the magical thinking tangent happens I can usually do one of two things. One: go back into the story and look for a place where the new material can be set up in a way consistent with the story. Or Two: delete the section I’ve just written because it doesn’t fit.
the previous observation could be an analogous tangent
Since I don’t believe in writer’s block, I’ve come to see that blocks are temporary pauses to step back and run scenarios or do something else – like write this process blog piece. (Although in writing the current novel – Extreme Measures book 5 of a nine book Sci-Fi series is in the 4th chapter of non-stop action.) Meditation helps to clear the slate and wait for the story’s consciousness to pop up a way forward.
Find your voice.
Characters and the story that they find themselves in, have a life of their own. This could also be said of our lives through the voice of a Higher Self, an AI observer or God looking in on the course of our story. Or the previous observation could be an analogous tangent.
Writers have their processes. Most teachers of writing impart: “Write. Find your voice. No one can tell you how to become a good writer. It’s work. Keep going.”
I have a friend who is a retired advertising executive / writer who told me my writing process was wrong. I more she spoke about my process the more irritated I became. I finally told her that I was ending the conversation because I didn’t want to argue with her.
* When I want to write quickly to the ending of the story I may let myself do that and then go back and add the other stuff. However it’s far easier to allow conflict and blocks to character forward movement in the form of the main action and weaving sub-plots during the course of moving towards the end than to go back and add it later. The step-by-step process is enticing and exciting for me. And I have found readers like it too.