The Sticking Place
Some people are naturally good at plots. Do you know those people? I sometimes want to give them a sharp jab to the ribs. (Sorry if you are one-- I won't really elbow you. But CANYOUPLEASEBOTTLETHATANDSELLITTOME?!)
What usually happens to me is that I have characters who are compelling, to me, and sometimes even a concept that intrigues me, and if I'm really lucky, I even get a solid beginning down, but then...I get stuck. Like "submerged my brain in superglue" stuck.
And then I spend hours writing the most obvious plot development ever, and deleting it, and rewriting a slightly less obvious but still obvious plot development, and deleting it, and getting frustrated, and making a sandwich, and...
A writer can only eat so many sandwiches.
But most of the time, I get past the sticking place, and as with many of my writing issues, it's because of the wisdom of my favorite writing professor. She told me something along the lines of: the end of your story is already there. All the tools to reach it are there. You just have to figure out what they are and use them.
So I get out of the sticking place by looking at what I've already set up. If I emphasized simulated realities in the beginning of the book, they shouldn't just fall out of the draft like they didn't mean anything-- they could be there later. If I set up self-sacrifice as the highest ideal to which my main character aspires, that could come into play later, too.
Every theme, and character weakness, and part of the world you've built is a tool that you can use to figure out where the story should go.
You know when you reach the end of a particularly good book, and you think "there were so many hints in the beginning, and I barely noticed them! AMAZING"? I always think of those things as effortless on the part of the writer--they either weren't aware of them, or the writer incorporated them without too much thought. But maybe they can be a little more deliberate. Maybe those little hints can actually help you to shape your story, and get your brain out of the superglue.
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