A simple strategy for figuring out what comes next
My collaborator is back from Finland and she returned bearing gifts!
This week’s plotting session was fueled by Finnish chocolate.
We’re at the point in the novel where certain things about our characters are becoming very clear and other things remain a mystery. I love this part, the uncovering. It’s the stage where it’s all about generating ideas, and the more the better; all doors are still open. “What if he gets chased by a dog?” “What if her father is trying to hide a major health issue?” “What if there’s a generational curse on the whole camp?”
I shared with Anna a technique that I learned in Laura van den Berg’s workshop at Bread Loaf years ago: when you’re trying to figure out what happens next, list out all the possibilities. The first ones that come to mind are usually obvious, expected. As you go on, they get a little zanier. By the tenth or eleventh idea, you’re usually veering into ideas that won’t work, either because you don’t like them or they’re in conflict with something already established in the story, but the eight or ninth idea is usually just right — unexpected or weird but once you think about it, it totally makes sense. At least this has been my experience with this method.
So we did a lot of that, and we figured out some crucial beats for the next few chapters.
And I write on, keeping up a good daily rhythm.
I will miss a day here and there, but for the most part I spend time with the project every morning. The pace is steady but slow enough to enjoy this season, the fall foliage and this past week’s post-eclipse full moon.
Wherever you are, whatever project you’re working on, I hope this season brings you wild and utterly perfect ideas, too.