Thursday, 10 March 2011

YES you CAN get past that stupid roadblock (without GPS)

Welcome to part 2 of

YES you CAN get past that stupid roadblock

(when travelling WITHOUT GPS)

Part 1 was all about getting past the rock on the road when you're travelling with a definite route in mind. Now, things are a little more complicated - or maybe easier? - when you're just joyriding, travelling along any road that appeals of you, with only a vague idea of your goal (or your waypoints) in mind. You can't just teleport ahead, because you don't know where you want to go. You can't really recalculate your route, either, because you don't have one. 

So what does a pantser-style writer do when stuck? Here's some ideas: 

1. Retrace your steps  

When you can't go on, one thing you can do is go back. This is rather similar to recalculating your route, only because you have no exact idea of where you wanted to go beyond that roadblock, it requires a little more care. Take your work and read back, one paragraph or chapter at a time, and find a point where you feel comfortable taking a turn elsewhere. Maybe your character has lunch somewhere else. Maybe he doesn't kiss her just yet, or does kiss her when you though he would not. Maybe, maybe, maybe - it all depends on your story, of course.

As you do this, it is vital that you keep in mind what you DO know about your story. Everyone has some idea of what they want to write about, no matter how vague. You just haven't plotted it out. Take this story idea and compare the words/paragraphs/chapters to it. Anything that doesn't feel right - that's where you take a turn and bypass the roadblock. After that, the road is all yours.

2. Barge through

Sometimes getting past a roadblock requires brute force. Take a kitchen alarm clock (you know, those minute timers with the really annoying ring), set it to 10 minutes (or 20 or 30), and just WRITE. No matter how crappy, no matter how inane, how uninspired and how NOT what you want to be doing, just write, starting right there in front of the roadblock.

This is a chancy way of getting on, I admit. Either it works for you or it doesn't, but it should be worth a try. When I do this, what usually happens is I find myself on the other side of that big rock after a couple of pages of embarrasingly rubbish... "writing" .... but I AM on the other side. Even if I'll probably have to scrap the section in my first editing round.

3. Get out and walk

This is similar to barging through, only with a little more sublety and probably a little more time required. What you do is get out of your car and work your way towards the block one word, one sentence at a time. It'll be hard work, definately.

Especially once you're right in front of that big rock and still, one word, one sentence at a time, you keep going. Slowly. But you'll get past it in the end. After all, one drop of water at a time can hollow out a whole canyon. All it takes is time.

4. Go drink coffee

This worked fine for those with GPS, it can work just as well for those without. Take a break. Put aside your WIP and have a coffee, a cupcake, a sandwich, whatever catches your fancy. Sit and listen to people around you, or read a book, watch your favourite TV series. Anything but write - but only for a short while. When you get back to it, you may well find that your roadblock has dissolved into a few pebbles.

MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER: Don't lose sight of your goal

You are writing because you want to get your story idea down on paper and, ideally, share it with the world. Don't forget that in order to do so, you need to finish (this has always been a major problem for me - I have endless WIPs and only one that's vaguely done). You also need to stay true to the story as it presents itself to you. If you figure out halfway throught that the love interest should be the arch-enemy, that's fine. But you still need to finish writing, and in order to do so - with or without GPS - you need to have at least a vague idea of where you want to go. Even pantsers have some idea of what they're writing about - or perhaps who it is they're writing about. Keep that most important idea firmly in mind as you write, and you're less likely to encounter roadblocks or take a wrong turn. 

I wish you all the best with your writing and I hope these two posts helped!

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