You’ve finally reached the scene. The one you’ve been waiting for.
You’re sitting in front of your computer, coffee on one side, cookies on the other, writing so fast you can barely see your fingers.
Your characters are doing the thing! The thing that will change the very course of your story or novel! The thing you’ve been planning since the very beginning.
You type furiously for hours. You lose track of time. Someone has probably texted you, but you don’t care.
No, you’re a writer. You are one with the words. The words are one with you. Nothing can interrupt this perfect moment.
When you finally finish your fated scene, you high-five yourself, let out a heaving sigh, and that’s when the panic hits you.
You have no idea what happens next.
I recently completed my July NaNoWriMo project, a novel titled The Alabaster Heir. I wrote a little over 88,000 words in 17 days, and people keep asking me, “Do you ever get stuck? How on earth do you recover so quickly?”
I ask questions.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a foolproof way of salvaging every plot, but it’s gotten me out of quite a few holes that I joyfully dug myself into.
What are the questions, you ask? There are several, but my all time favorite is:
What’s the worst that could happen?
Oh, aliens? A dinosaur attacks the village? Starbucks goes out of business?
Make that happen.
Keep yourself on your toes.
Generally when I get stuck, it’s because I’m bored with the story or I have no idea what happens next.
Someone told me once, “if you’re bored writing it, your readers will be bored reading it.”
I’m an extensive planner when it comes to my novels and stories, but sometimes I still have to drop in the unexpected to get the plot moving again. Even if that means wandering away from my outline for awhile.
What’ll happen if you try this out?
- It’ll get your plot going again, hopefully.
- You may end up with super interesting content that you didn’t expect.
Also, keep in mind that whatever you write, you can always go back and change later.
Let me give you an example of how you can use questions not only to get yourself unstuck, but to build a basic (or maybe not so basic) plot.
Allow me to set the stage.
Meet Gregory Williams. Gregory is at work. It’s Friday night and he is dying to get home and see his wife. It’s their first wedding anniversary, you see, and he bought her the most glorious bouquet of white roses, which just happen to be her favorite.
The clock finally hits 5 PM, and Gregory is out the door in a flash.
Now at this point, you can ask, “what’s the BEST thing that could happen?”
Gregory gets home in one piece, the bouquet hasn’t been damaged, his wife tearfully accepts the roses, surprises him with a home-cooked meal, and then they spend their evening enjoying some good ol’ Adult Hanky-PankyTM.
I guess if you’re writing a warm and fuzzy feel-good story/novel, then that could work, but I generally ask myself the first question so I know exactly what I’m trying to prevent.
So, let’s ask another question.
What’s the WORST that could happen?
Gregory’s car breaks down, Gregory drops the bouquet, Gregory gets an emergency call from a family member.
Or even, “what’s the most BIZARRE or UNEXPECTED thing that could happen?”
Gregory is abducted by aliens, Gregory gets stalked by a vampire, Gregory meets his doppelganger and they have a death match in the alley.
Poor Gregory. Whenever he figures out how to overcome the obstacles you drop in his way and FINALLY gets home, you can ask the questions again, or you can figure out how to tie things together and end the story.
What happens to Gregory? Up to you. Personally, I kinda dig the doppelganger idea.
The point is, keep yourself interested in the story, and the words will come to you. Let it flow, take a chance, ask yourself questions if you get stuck, then act on the answers.
Besides… what’s the worst that could happen?