Confusing sidewalk traffic sign

Fast Writing Tip for NaNoWriMo and Other Deadlines

If you’re doing a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), congratulations — you are a third of the way through your novel! I hope. Maybe.

If you’ve hit a wall or are bogged down in your plot — the protagonist is stuck in the world’s longest traffic jam, the heroine is trapped in the most boring meeting ever, the detective can’t seem to buy a clue — don’t despair. Try this simple writing technique to move past the writer’s block: skip to a scene that you know has to be in the book. It other words, skip the ahead and take the novel, and the characters, to where you want to be.

Notice I said where you want to be? Sometimes we feel like we must do things that are expected of us (and yes, sometimes there are things we must do because they are expected of us, like purchase our brother-in-law’s self-published steampunk-scifi-horror-fantasy-erotica at his “autograph party”), but there’s nothing we absolutely must do in own novel but finish it. James Joyce made up his own language in Finnigan’s Wake for crying out loud! So even if your protagonist is stuck searching the torn up flat in Budapest and you feel like you need to explain how she gets to London where you know exactly what you want — and need — to have happen to propel you to the climactic scene, just jump ahead to London and start writing that scene that’s in your head where she finds the lynchpin that fastens everything together.

There’s a very good chance you will discover that the scene you are struggling over isn’t necessary. And if you still feel you are missing something, you can work your way backwards, figuring out what is absolutely necessary (a clue, a connection at  bar, meeting of another character on a flight, an overheard conversation, a phone call to the flat?) to get your protagonist from Budapest to London. Or you may discover what is needed later in the novel and can go back an fill in the missing scene, but this time much more quickly since you know what you want to convey.

The key is to keep the momentum and — stop me if you’ve heard this before — write what you know. Only in this case, it’s write what you know you need.

You may be surprised by what you don’t need. Kafka never does explain how Gregor turned into a giant insect in his sleep.

 

 

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