I sat down to write during a free hour yesterday and worked my way out of bad (for me) writer’s block. I needed to start a new chapter; I knew (more or less) which characters are involved and what they’re doing. Sounds like I knew what I was doing, right?
The problem? I’m a discovery writer. That’s not a problem, really, and I honestly enjoy discovery writing. (The basic meaning of which is that when I write, I don’t always know what happens next. I know the end of the story, roughly, and a few key points in the middle, but that’s about it.) The downside is that I had two characters parting at the end of the last chapter who needed to start the next chapter together. I couldn’t just have them start the chapter together, unfortunately, as the one chapter picks up where the last left off.
My solution? I wrote. Not, in this case, in the story itself, but along the margins. (Call me old-fashioned, but I think better when writing stories on real paper, not a computer.) Why do these characters need to meet up now? Where could they meet? Where are my other characters – why can’t they be involved? I asked myself these questions and others. By the time I finished, I had a better idea of what I wanted these characters to do and why.
Even better, I had an idea for starting the chapter – a completely different start than any that I’d envisioned when I sat down to write. It was a more tense beginning, more emotionally demanding of my characters, it gave some characterization for an important background character, and – best of all – gave my characters direction for their (previously planned-but-unmotivated) actions in this chapter.
That’s the point of this post: be flexible. When you write, don’t get so bogged down with charts and outlines that the writing stops being fun and starts being hard. Or worse, annoying. Sometimes, the excitement of discovering a new twist for a particularly aggravating plot point is all the motivation I need to pick up the pencil. If I hadn’t taken the time to ask my characters questions, I’d still be struggling to write a chapter beginning which – I’ll admit – I’d probably like a lot less than the one I’ve already got going.