Well I am doing Nanowrimo again, and I have hit that preverbal two week wall. I tend to be a pantser. (In case you don’t know what that means, I will explain. Common lore amongst nanowrimo participants dictates that there are two, or maybe three, types of writers. There is the plotter, who plots out her novel before writing it, with outlines and highlighters and notecards. There is the pantser, who writes her novel in a “flying by the seat of her pants” kind of fashion, learning the narrative as she goes. And then there is the plantser, who is a combination of the two. But since probably most of us are plantsers to a certain degree, that last category seems like a bit of a cheat, at least to me. I’m a plantser. But if you strip my writing style to its barest of bones, I’m a pantser. No matter how badly my autocorrect wants me to be a panther.)
Anyway, back to that wall. Yesterday found me pressed up against it hard. Yesterday for me was the day I suddenly decided I didn’t know anything about writing, and instead of putting words on the page, I was reading books about inciting incidents and novels which were far better than any bit of dribble I could ever write. It got so bad that I was looking up pajama pants on ebay.
Yesterday I wrote all of 300 words, even though I was at my computer most of the day. Then before bed I started writing a list of what ifs. And this morning, looking at my list, I figured out a way to break through this first wall.
WRITE THROUGH THE POSSIBILITIES. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard people talking about that before, but I never quite understood what it meant. Kind of like when my grad school teacher told me to go deeper with my writing. Yes! I wanted to go deeper! I wanted to really get in there and start sucking on that marrow and mine those trenches, only, How? (I still don’t have the answer to that one. If you do, please feel free to share in the comments.)
But how do you write through the possibilities?
Here is one way.
Make a list of what-ifs. They can be outlandish as hell. What if the world flips on its side and everyone has to learn to walk sideways and also backwards. What if so and so character joins a cult, or gets stuck in an elevator, or the house burns down. It doesn’t matter if, due to the nature of your novel, the What If is unlikely ever to occur. I’ll give you an example. You think to write: What if Megan’s horse asks her what she’s making for dinner? No no, you might say. In this world I have built, animals don’t talk. It doesn’t matter. Write it down.
Then go through the list and write as if. If you have written, “What if my main character dies?” write it. What happens? How did she die? How do your other characters move around this? Who mourns? Who is secretly relieved? What does her frenemy wear to the funeral? Her mother? What does her horse have to say about it? (jk)
Maybe you can’t use any of this. Maybe it throws everything off. That’s okay. You aren’t writing a final draft. Write through it, and when you are done, move on to the next What If on your list.
If nothing you write from this list feels right, you can always make another list. In the meantime, none of this is wasted. In writing though the possibilities, you have gotten to know your book a little better. You have mined the trenches. And if nothing else, hey, you have increased your wordcount.
And maybe, just maybe, you have found the What If that blows a hole through that wall and sends you propelling headfirst into week three.