The following is a response to a question from Rama, one of this blog's followers.
I don't know how relevant is my way of writing a short story is with the topic in discussion.
Anyway I thought I should share with you. Before I start writing, I always have an idea of the story in my mind, but I have seen as the story moves on, my idea changes, my characters change and my situations change, in fact everything keeps on changing as I keep writing , and finally I find that my story has no resemblance to what I had in my mind. But somehow I like it. I don't know why I can never stick to my original idea. Should I consider it as an advantage or a disadvantage, please let me know what you feel.
Please don't feel alone; my characters and stories also evolve through the course of conception. I'm sure that they do for other writers as well. My vote is to allow for that serendipity, especially in first drafts. You'll have plenty of opportunities to enhance consistencies in storyline and character once you're done the initial draft and into editing and revision.
The notion of serendipitous writing came up during an author interview that I did last year. Quoting an excerpt from that interview:
Ed: What’s your writing process?
Mohamed: Serendipity, really. (stop and thinks). It’s difficult to operationalize creativity. If we could, we’d produce Picasso’s paintings or Michelangelo’s David on a conveyor belt. That said, there are specific techniques available to artists of every medium. In my writing, I like to get a set of ideas down and then explore and expand them through prose. Sometimes the prose works, other times it’s crap. Start stringing words together – in the end, that’s the process. That’s about as simple or as complex as it gets. As R.A. Salvatore once wrote to me in an e-mail: “Writers write.”
Ed: Where did you get your ideas for Resolution 786?
Mohamed: The story started out as a concept for a play, a loosely assembled set of literary images that floated around on my desk on scraps of paper and little yellow stickies. This went on for about a year. The play carried a tentative title of “War Crimes” and was a courtroom drama with God on trial. In the midst of this never-finished draft, the Iraq War came about and the events of those days began to stand out in my consciousness. Eventually, those headlines wrapped themselves around “War Crimes,” turning the embryonic play into a cubist novel. See? Serendipity.
You say that your characters and situations change. Well, in this case, not only did that happen in my writing, but the structural medium of the piece changed from a play to a novel. Change happens. Let it.
Later in the same interview, Ed asks if I've had any specific experiences of serendipitous writing. I refer to phenomenon as "kismet" in my response. Quoting that question and its answer:
Ed: Tell us about your forthcoming non-fiction title?
Mohamed: While doing research for my second novel, I realized that I’d developed a set of techniques for creating fiction that may be useful to other writers. I decided to catalogue and describe these techniques in Creating Fiction: A Hands-on, Practitioner’s Guide. So far the draft has chapters on the essentials of reading, developing ideas, constructing narrative, style and voice, and the utility of colleagues in what is otherwise a solitary undertaking. I also have a chapter titled “Kismet,” where I explain how characters can be born from the womb of the story.
Ed: Have you experienced that?
Mohamed: Yes. The custodian in Resolution 786 didn’t come from out of my head and onto the page. He was born from within the story itself.
No only do characters change, Rama. Sometimes new characters are actually born from the story. As you might guess by now, I value serendipity and kismet in my writing. Should you consider it an advantage or disadvantage? It's neither and it's both (I realize that's a strange answer, but I AM an absurdist:)). The larger point I'm making is that the passion and magic of creation is beyond mechanistic description, somewhere outside of dichotomous right or wrong. That said:
Don't fear serendipity.
Don't fear kismet.
Let it flow.
Keep what works.
Ditch what doesn't.
In your question you make the point that although your stories evolve mid-stream, when you're done, you "somehow like it." If there ever was a benchmark for evaluating your own creativity, that has to be it. If you like it, embrace it.
Keep writing, Rama. I am and I will continue to be one of your readers :)