[A Guestpost by T. S. Bazelli]
Help, I don't know what happens next!!
This is a problem for both pansters and plotters, and trust me, I've been both. No matter how you write, it's likely you'll discover gaps in the plot while you're in the middle of writing. I'm not talking about writing block, but story blocks, when suddenly you've run out of plot, or don't quite know how to get to the next part.
Some people say that you should take a break, take a bath, read a book, or work on something else, but there are some times where that isn't an option (Hello NaNoWriMo!). Here are a few tips to help you break through and keep the words flowing:
1) Change the point of view. Try writing from the point of view of a minor character or from the villain's perspective. What would the cook think of the fight that just erupted in his bar? What would he or she think of your main characters?
2) Write a scene from the character's past. Reminisce about something that happened in your characters childhood, or something that made them into the person they are now. You may decide to cut this during revisions, but you'll know more about your characters and their motivations.
3) Pick an emotional soundtrack. Sometimes it helps to hone into a particular emotion and get into your character's head. What is your character feeling? Can you build a scene that demonstrates that emotion? For example, if your character's lover just died, how would your character express their sadness? What trouble would this cause in the rest your characters life? Bosses, friends, errant mailboxes... all are fair game. You can even mirror that emotion in the setting.
4) Start a fight. An argument. A fistfight. Zombies come out of nowhere. Maybe your main character starts it. Maybe a brawl starts in the bar your characters are sitting in. This will get your characters in acting and reacting to the situation. If the fight came out of nowhere, you have a bonus scene coming up, because now your characters have to figure out what just happened and why!
5) Write your characters having a meal. Eating keeps your characters hands busy, relieves tension in the story, and is allows you to fit in some conversation. You can reveal more about your characters personalities, as well as allow them to discuss what they think is happening around them. (This one is courtesy of Steven Brust)
6) Write cliché. This one takes a little bravery, but sometimes it can be fun to not take your writing so seriously. How can you make the next scene the worst, more horrible, derivative, thing you've ever written? When revising you can take that same scene and flip the cliché on its head. Doing something unexpected with cliché is so much fun.
7) Don't write in order. If you don't know what's going to happen next, but have a brilliant idea for a future scene, write it! It's likely you'll spawn more ideas when you're done writing that future scene.
Sometimes you can write through a block in the story. Sometimes you need to learn a little more about your characters or the plot before getting unstuck. If you don't know what's going to happen next, have courage, and have a little fun. And remember,
"Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist." Jane Smiley
SO GO FORTH, and don't be afraid to write something, anything. Don't be afraid to suck. Sometimes the best thing to do is just to keep the words flowing. You can always fix the story when it's time to edit.
T. S. Bazelli blogs about folklore, monsters, and the writer's life at: http://www.tsbazelli.com