A few days ago, I twitted about a mistake I made (Ok, maybe not a mistake as such – to quote Bob Ross, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents“) and neglected my outline for just a little bit. By a little bit, I mean a large part of a scene. The result was almost a thousand words of half-decent first-draft quality prose with very interesting character interactions. Alas, I had mixed the characters up. Shameful, I know. In my defense, it was an easy mistake to make, since I almost never name filler characters when I outline, and the two characters shared a few things, like age and lifestyle. The only difference is the character I intended to write about was supposed to have no more than one line of dialogue and appear for maybe half a page, and the one I ended up writing about is an important character, which made the first one a filler, or rather an obstacle to the MC’s progress. A nameless character. Of course you might say that a thousand words for a filler character are too many, but keep in mind there are descriptions, POV character’s thoughts, reactions, and of course the stuff I had on my mind about the important character. Plus, the POV character and that filler one ended up having a long conversation, which was not part of the original plan, but stemmed of how I pictured the important character. My face once I realised what I did was like Arnold’s.


I don’t know how many of you have read G. R. R. Martin’s book, A song of Ice and Fire, but those of you who have, if you watched last week’s show (season 6, episode 1), would probably have something to say about it. Actually, if you have read the books and watched the show, you probably have a lot to say, but that’s a different story. I’m not going to go into it. I just wanted to point out how easy it is to lose track of something planned in advance, if you miss or change one little detail. For Game of Thrones, it was Martin himself, if I’m not mistaken, when he mentioned of the butterfly effect and how the show and the books have diverged because of them. I had read that blog post earlier in the year, and I know he considers himself as a gardener-writer rather than an engineer-writer, but only after my mistake did I appreciate how easy it is to deviate so exponentially by one single mistake, like a few lines of dialogue.

So, any happy accidents you made throughout your writing career that changed things so much for your stories, you had to change everything and rewrite them?

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2 thoughts on “No mistakes, only happy accidents

  1. Yes. Trying to write a novel and ended up with a terrible overall story but great short stories instead. Only took a few years but it was worth the accidental discovery.

    1. I keep a folder on my PC with all the things I’ve written and turned out to be “wrong” or edited out of finished projects. I find it very hard to completely delete these accidental discoveries, as you put it. I may need them at some point down the road.

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