What happens when you reach a part of your book and don’t know what should happen next?
I’m going to be honest with you. This doesn’t happen to me a lot and when it does, from experience I know if I go back a chapter, I usually find the problem and I’m ready to move on. But because this can be a problem that many writers face, I thought what a good way to tell my process of what to do when this happens.
To that, let me explain what happened this morning. I opened my manuscript, then skipped to the last page, so I can pick up where I left off. Everything before this page was going quite well. I was writing, writing, writing, and my imaginative juices were constantly flowing. I was getting good ideas and instead of ignore them, I wrote them out, which in turn caused me to save two files of the manuscript: one heading in one direction and a second heading in a slightly different direction. But once I faced a blank page this morning, the unusual happened. The voices were silent. I mean, they didn’t utter a single peep.
Has that ever happened to you? You wrote pages and pages and you’re excited to move forward and then you sit at the computer and nothing comes to mind?
Here’s my process. There are several reasons why I can sit in front of a computer and can’t immediately start typing.
1. My mind is somewhere else. I’m thinking about personal issues and these issues have blocked my creative juices.
2. I have too many distractions happening around me, such as intrusive noises, etc. I go more into this in my book, Anyone Can Write.
3. I haven’t a darn clue about what should happen next in my book, although up until this point everything was going well.
Numbers one and two are easy to resolve, so let’s not discuss them and focus on number three. Now why oh why do I not know what is going to happen next in a book I am writing?
Aha! I have an answer for you and I’m going to explain it with my process. It is hard for a writer to cut away scenes they’ve already written, especially when those scenes are well written. Authors love what they write. They read over what they’ve written and get excited. But excitement doesn’t stop us some times from hitting a dead end, a road block in our plot. To get out of this dead end, we have to do what we would in real life. We must go back and find another avenue that can lead us to our destination.
Let me pause a moment and say this. As a pantser, I’ve learned that the pieces of my plot will automatically, nine times out of ten, fall into place. There are occasions when I have to put on my thinking cap to tie up loose ends in the plot, but most times than not, everything falls into place on its own. It doesn’t matter that I haven't pre-outlined my plot or that I have no idea what I’m truly writing about until I start writing. The pieces will fall together and fit perfectly, if only I keep writing until I reach the end. This is one of the reasons I never have a FEAR of writing, because I know that the finished product will have a good payoff.
Now that that’s been said, let me pick up where I left off. I opened my document and nothing came to mind. I literally sat in front of my laptop and, for several minutes, tried thinking up what I could write to keep my story going. It is my experience that when I try and add scenes from my own imagination, these scenes are usually cut away later. Now, don’t get me wrong. The entire story is from my imagination, but if you’ve read my other threads in this blog or my book, Anyone Can Write, you will know that I listen to the voices to write a story from beginning to end. This means I allow the characters in my books to tell the story to me rather than me telling the characters what’s going to happen to them.
My process is to never start making things up in the books I’m writing. If the voices are silent, it means I have left them behind somewhere on a previous page. All I have to do is go back and find out where I left them and pick them up again, so it’s the voices that continue to tell me the story I’m writing.
What I had up until this morning is a dilemma. Jenna wants her son to kill her sister, a sister she believes has stolen her husband, because let’s be real. Sarah has stolen her sister’s husband, because it’s Sarah that Pierre loves, and together they have seven children between them. Seven! That’s a lot of kids to have by your sister’s husband on anyone’s standards. To make matters worse, Sarah lives on the same plantation that her sister lives on. Whoa-ho-ho! Now, that’s truly brazen. I’m sure Jenna is thinking, you’ve stolen my husband AND you’re living on this prestigious plantation that I am the mistress of and it’s my duties to run its mansion’s day to day operations? My husband sleeps under your roof and not mine? You have given him more children than I have because he no longer sleeps with me at all? Die, hussy, die! LOL.
So in the chapters that I’ve pasted in the thread, we know that Jenna commissions Edouard to do the killing and Edouard is not pleased about this. We also know that for some reason, Jenna lured Andreu into her salle and poured him a cup of café. We also know that Pierre and Sarah have left the plantation to go visit a relative, and that Edouard has left the plantation just to get away and take his mind off of killing someone he loves. There are other chapters I’ve written, as well. I hit a brick wall this morning and backtracked and discovered what pages I left the voices on. In a chapter I haven’t pasted on the blog, Sarah and Pierre have reached Biloxi to visit their relative. I must say, this chapter is a very good chapter and adds intensity. Unfortunately, the voices aren’t at all telling me anything more about what’s happening in Biloxi. What the voices are telling me is, Pierre and Sarah never reached Biloxi, because they were called back to the plantation before the steamboat could pull away from the docks. Let me put this another way. By having Pierre and Sarah reach Biloxi, as well as what I have written that happens in Biloxi, it will pull me off course of the plot.
In every book, there is one thing in particular that must be solved. There is a dilemma that’s mentioned at a start of any book, whether that dilemma is made known outright or silently. In example, the book “Flowers in the Attic” silently hints from that the start that something may be wrong with the family that’s mentioned in the opening pages. The author gives enough clues to make the reader wonder, but not enough for them to figure it out. It’s not until you get so many chapters in that the actual problem is presented. But let’s look at the book “Gone Girl.” From the opening pages the problem is plain and is given to the readers freely. Nick’s wife is missing and must be found.
Whatever dilemma is mentioned in a book, this dilemma must stay present in the readers’ minds, because that’s what the book is about, a dilemma that must be resolved. Therefore, by writing that Pierre and Sarah have reached Biloxi will draw readers away from the dilemma I mentioned at the start of the book. I have to stay focused on the dilemma, then take my readers from A-Z on what happens next until the dilemma is resolved.
This is my process for the issue I faced this morning. After I realized why I couldn’t just pick up and start writing this morning, I fixed the issue and my creative juices began flowing again. There are different reasons why a writer can have writer’s block. My issue today is only one of them, but if you find yourself having the same problem I did this morning, hopefully you can use my process and fix the issue.
Whatever you do, keep going! Why not challenge yourself to write no less than an hour a day? And keeping coming back to the blog, because I think some of my processes will help you along the way.