It’s a commonly accepted principle of physics that if you cool something hard down quickly (like glass) from a hot state it can crack, break, or shatter. This is a commonly accepted principle of physics that two days ago, I chose to ignore.
You see, while baking the split chicken breasts, I’d forgotten to add a little water to the bottom of the pan. If I don’t, it burns and gets all icky. I filled up a cup with some very hot water from the tap, opened the oven, and well… you know what happened, don’t you?
The entire 13 x 9 Pyrex glass baking pan shattered. Into a hot oven.
I stood there, with a cup in my hand staring at it like a moron. I was stricken by the fact that the chicken pieces were still sitting nicely on the largest two remaining bits of glass.
This could have gone one of several ways. I could have dropped into a classic redheaded temper tantrum, thrown things, and cussed a lot. I could have thrown the whole lot away and ordered pizza. Instead, I opted for another option. I carefully cleaned out the bits of glass I could from the bottom so I could shut the door safely, pulled the glass pieces out, and inspected the chicken. Most of the glass broke downwards, into large pieces. There was no sign of any shards in the chicken itself, so I took a chance, set it aside, and pulled out a pot.
Life gave me lemons, so I made lemonade. Or more specifically, chicken soup. A little asian seasoning, some chicken broth and water with a bit of soba noodles, and bam, chicken soup. The whole family had seconds.
This is something you can do with your own writing, if you weren’t aware. Sometimes, when you’re working on a story, you discover halfway that you’ve forgotten something. Maybe the plot’s not working. Or the characters suck. We’ve all hit that point where you take your fingers away from the keyboard, and stare at the screen and know that this is just not working.
Many people throw their hands up, scrap it, and give up. Maybe they do something else like start another book. I say you don’t have to do something so drastic. You can salvage any piece, no matter how awful it is, with a little ingenuity. Open up your mind’s pantry and see what you’ve got lying around! Often, I don’t worry about changing what I already have, I just start the new project as if I’d done that from the beginning. I figure I can fix things later.
Too often when we’re working on a draft, we decide that the whole thing is just terrible, but we get wedded to the idea that what we’re doing is the only way it can be done, or it’s not worth doing. Had I chosen to do that with my chicken dinner, I would have ended up with nothing. After all, I couldn’t move forward the way I was going, I had a hot stove full of glass and no pan to cook in! But by changing perspectives, and going in a completely different direction, I wound up with something that in the end turned out better than the original.
So tell us: what sort of road blocks have you run into with your stories, and how are you working around them– or not?