The plot seemed so clear, you were ploughing forward in great strides. But then suddenly, it just stopped. You can't see the path before you. Your mojo seems to have disappeared. All that spins round and round in your mind is: What happens next?
You’ve probably been sat in front of your computer for a good while now. You might even have punched out a few words with a finger, while your chin sits in the cradle of your other hand, along with the rest of your droopy face. Generally speaking, you’re stuck. You can’t think of where to go with your story, there are no visible avenues for you to explore. You’re down in the doldrums, as if what’s the point; everything you write will be shit.
That condition where you read back your previous chapter or scene and keep asking yourself what happens next becomes a cyclone of frustration and yet, no matter how many times you return to it, an answer refuses to reveal itself.
It happens to the best of us.
You might know your overall general plot, but navigating your characters towards those milestones moment-to-moment seems an impossible task. So you leave it, potter around the house, do something else, thinking when you come back to it something will have dislodged and you’ll be back in the throes of creation.
It’s just the same listless perplexity as the last time you sat in that seat, fiddling with commas and punctuation for want of something better to do.
What you need is some inspiration, right?
What you need is to take action; don’t wait around. Stop focusing on the macro ‘what happens next?’ because your writing will seem flimsy and without depth and then you will feel flimsy and without depth, and that is not a good place for a writer to be.
Concentrate on the micro elements instead.
You need to bring your scene to life in your own mind, as well as the reader’s. Attention to detail is what will make your story seem authentic and interesting, even to yourself.
So, if this sounds like you, this is what I want you to do. Either:
- go to Stumbleupon.com and keep stumbling until you find an image, slogan, object or scene — something that snags your attention and sparks some ideas. You might like to try stumbling into subjects you wouldn’t normally list in your interests, so that you inject a fresh angle into your story.
- Pick up a household object. Put it on your desk or table (wherever you normally write).
Whichever you choose, I want you to start your scene or chapter with that item, writing as if you are the POV character, incorporating the object into their situation or current state of mind. Begin by describing it, how it looks, feels and smells, what noises it makes, how it reflects the feelings of the Point of View Character (POVC). And as you do so, allow yourself to meander down any path your sub-conscience takes you. Go on a little tangent (as your character), see what your exploration unlocks, what introspection it draws out. Remember, you can go back and delete or strengthen stuff in your revisions, so don’t get hung up on writing imperfect prose. The purpose here is to get your flow back, not stall it.
Using methods like these will help you create the stepping stones you need to reach the milestones. By focusing on the details rather than the next event, you not only bring the environment to life and ground your reader in the scene, you draw out character, too. And from character comes plot.
Once you hit upon your next block — and it will happen — try a different tactic. Go to an online random word generator and generate three words. Incorporate them into your next section. Or try a name generator and bring some new blood into the story.
It only takes a small spark – though it needs to be the right kind of spark — to set you off on the right path again, and then you can relax a little, and leave the question of what happens next on the lips of the right person: the reader.