I finished my manuscript, The Rental and have handed it into my editor. Now I have a new task: how the hell do I plan and start the sequel to his novel? All the stress! All the things to resolve! All. The. Writers. Block.
I want to share something with you today, and it’s what I’ve done to get myself out of that anxious/stressful/sanity-testing phase of how to put a story together when it’s just not coming together.
Call it writers block. Call it a hole. Or call it the writing blues.
But you need to read these tips, so you might not have any of those feelings going forward.
◊ ◊ ◊ STEP ONE ◊ ◊ ◊
The important thing here is to develop ideas and a plan based on tension, twists and conflict that will serve your manuscript as best possible. What am I talking about?
Stakes. Stakes make a story, and without good ones, they are bad. And bad stakes make for boring and even confusing storytelling.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What are the worst things that could happen?
- What are the best things that could happen?
Under each of those question headings, list 5 –10 things that come to mind. Issues to put down could include:
- The MC (main character) gets hurt/killed if the antagonist (bad guy) wins out;
- the love interest hurts the MC;
- the MC’s past comes back to haunt him or her;
- the MC’S family or friends get hurt because of the MC’s issues; and
- the MC is betrayed/cheated/harmed/hated/discarded, etc.
- The main character could finally marry their lover;
- the MC and lover can put their dark pasts behind them; and
- the MC is happy again, and has a purpose in life.
Writing down these ideas can help resolve your own inner conflict by surfacing the essential need of the story. When you put these ideas together, you can develop a workable plan, one that will test your characters to their limits and by the end, your ending might just write itself. Endings don’t happen when storylines and character arcs are screwed and/or inefficient. All the endings in the world won’t feel right if you don’t nail the characters, theme, pacing, plots and subplots up to that point.
◊ ◊ ◊ STEP TWO ◊ ◊ ◊
Now that you have jotted down the best and worst things that can happen in your story, you can write out a plan, dividing the story into four quarters (I say “four” because movies operate on the three-act structure, but books have four definitive sections).
Use the worst things you listed at the plot or pinch points, the midpoint and black moment.(You’ll read what these are below.) Pepper in the good things you listed along to create hope.
Section your plan into:
Beginning — ¼: (include the hook within the first scene and first plot point* between 20 — 25%)
¼ — ½: (include the first pinch point [otherwise known as a low point where things fall apart] at ~ 37.5% and the midpoint† at ~50%)
½ — ¾: (include the second pinch point (see above) at ~ 62.5%)
¾ — end: include the second plot point* at 75 — 80% and the black moment [otherwise known as the moment everything falls apart and nothing looks like it'll work out] at ~ 90%)
* plot points are moments that change the direction of the story such as going on a quest, accepting a deal, etc.
† The midpoint marks the change where the characters now somewhat control their future. From 0 — 50% they might have been forced on their pathway, confused or lost. But, from 50% on, they might have a clue which sheds some light, or maybe they willingly accept their fates and go on with renewed vigour.
I hope the above helps you. Writers block, writers blues, writers hole and all that jazz really sucks. Cheers to happier writing from here on out! *raises champagne glass*