First drafts inevitably give me angst–fear, dread, misery. They generally start off snappy, whimsical, full of life and dreams but at some point all those bright lights fizzle out and it becomes work. I do not believe in divine inspiration for my work (stone the witches who do!). At some point, I write myself into a plot wall.
Instead of staring at the same page/sentences/chapter over and over again, it’s best to try something different and break away from that first draft angst.
- Start with a blank page Okay, this is a bit of a cheat because I do this every time I write. EVERY TIME. But really, try it. You will feel freer without yesterday’s words and ideas tethering you. Maybe also consider starting from a completely different place in your story or novel. Who said you have to write chronologically?
- Find the plot I write first, ask questions later. Which is great to get a word count and to have the story flying but often the dreaded plot wall happens. This is terrible if you are penning a longer work like a novel or novella. Try an outline. Really, try it. I hate index cards. Hate. Them. But do what feels right to you: whether that is something super organised or a mind map.
- Skeleton The first draft doesn’t have to be organ meat and flesh. It can be small scenes, vignettes, notes–as long as it gets you to the end. Writing in chunks is a-okay. If you’re stuck on something, stop it. Move to a new scene or character and write a chunk, then another chunk.
- Get to know your characters Traditional character sketches have never been my bag (gag me with a spoon), but I’ve come around to character sketches, in a sense, during a recent plot wall. It let me think clearly about the plot and negotiate certain scenes. I asked myself questions about the characters and tried to answer them the best I could in regards to the story, plot and how they relate to the other characters.
- Sprints Block off a day or half-day and dedicate it to writing. It doesn’t have to be good writing or anything like that, but set a target (word count, chapter, plot outline, character sketches) and write in sprints. You’ll be amazed how much you get done and how much you don’t care if it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ writing. It will be writing! As an example: write for 30 minutes, take a 10 minute break. 30 minutes, 10 minute break, so on and so forth. Adjust as necessary. If you have an accountability friend to sprint with you, the more the merrier.
I’ll write more about Find the plot and Get to know your characters, but hopefully, this will help break that plot wall. If you missed it, also 5 Writing Tools for That Writing Project.
Do you have any recommendations for breaking the dreaded plot wall?