How to Write a Novel in 30 Days, Tip #5, Taking the Wrong Turn

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This is a continuation of How to Write a Novel in 30 Days.

Sometimes we’re plowing along in our novel, our fingers are flying, and we come to a screeching halt. We think, where do we go next? Which way do we turn?

Has this happened to you?

The solution:

Let it happen. Don’t fear it. Be prepared because chances are that it will.

Here are a few things you can do:

1. Look at your outline. There could be a problem. Remember your character’s internal and external goals. Make sure they’re intact. Know what their goals are. Are they clashing? Does slaying the dragon (external goal) conflict with another external goal (keeping the kid safe)?  If he slays the dragon will the kid die? Or does the external goal (slaying the dragon) clash with his internal goal (of keeping his temper in check, not using his powers in violence)? Having conflicting goals helps create tension.

Will the hero have to choose between two situations that are equally important? Will she have to choose between staying alive or keeping Peeta alive? (Hunger Games)

2. Go back to the ending of your last scene. Was it a reactive scene? For instance, if you touch a hot stove you’ll get burned. That’s a natural consequence. Touching the stove was active. Flinching was reactive. If you have one active scene make the next a reactive one. How does the character handle the action in the last scene? How does it make him feel? What does she do in retaliation or in self defense?

3. Read Randy Ingermanson’s article HERE. He will teach you the structure of scenes. But read this before your writing hour so you’re prepared to write when you sit in the chair to make your daily quota. Don’t use writing time to research. You won’t make your goal that way.

2. If you’re still stumped and your armpits are sweating because you only have an hour to meet your daily goal (and this is a race with yourself, right?) take a different path–just for the heck of it. Use your imagination. Be insanely creative.

“But wait,” you say, “what if it’s a waste of time? What if I hit a dead end and have to delete it all anyway?”

Oh well. So you do. It happens. Let it. Remember your goal is to finish 50K words, not write perfectly. You might delete it during the final drafts, but that’s okay. On the flip side, you might write the best prose of the week too. This scene could be the one that will unstick you. How will you know if you don’t try? Or, something else might happen: that scene could end up being a fantastic premise for a short story–something you could use somewhere else. Later. But for now, don’t think about it that way. Don’t let your fear get in the way of forward momentum. All writing is great practice, even if you don’t use it in this novel. Even if you end up deleting it.

Mark Twain spent months stuck in the middle of Huckleberry Finn before he decided to have Huck and Jim take the wrong turn on the river and get lost. It worked well for him, didn’t it?

When have you taken a wrong turn that ended up in the right place?

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  1. Great post. I’m bookmarking it.

    • Thanks, Pat. How are you? We need to catch up. When does your book launch? Give me an update when you can. Are you going up to MN this month? The ACFW in Sept?

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