Bridging the Gap – Slogging Through the Stumbling Blocks

You have just finished chapter 4 and you know how chapter 6 will go, but somehow, chapter 5 just won’t let itself be written. If you have done any amount of writing you have most assuredly faced this problem. If you haven’t seen it yet, you will.

So how do you get from point A to point C when point B is a big unknown? The tool I use most often is the bullet-point.  In short-form, I map out the events that need to happen to get from A-to-C.

These bullets can include things like: is travel involved? do any relationships need to change? do additional characters need to be involved (or leave)? and so on. And, of course, for each of these questions, you might want to throw in the big six questions: who, how, when, why and where.

Does this exercise suddenly part the fog and get the chapter written? Hardly. It does, however, serve to clarify just what needs to be done. It also usually demonstrates something called life. Let me digress for a moment to explain what I mean by the last comment.

If you picture your own life, you should quickly realize that life isn’t just a series of highs and lows. There are lots of “life” moments: riding the bus to work, mowing the lawn, washing the car, buying groceries, etc. Often, these are the point B’s in your own life-story. Why should your characters be any different?

The challenge is to recognize these moments and realize that the reader doesn’t necessarily care to hear all about it. The other challenge is to not ignore the moment; to do so could leave way too many gaps in your story and confuse the reader.

So you’ve bulleted everything that fits in point B. You recognize that some of the life moments can be glossed over in a single sentence. Now what? This is where some of my ingrained writing habits must be ignored. For example, I’ve taken writing courses and read countless books on the craft of writing. Once common message throughout is “Show, don’t tell”.

Unfortunately, life moments are usually “Tell” moments. Showing simply takes too long and can be really boring for the reader. If you look back at books you’ve read that seemed a little “Slow-paced”, you might find that they were riddled with life-moments that were shown, not told.

So what to do? First, put away that wet-noodle you beat yourself with whenever you break the “rules”. Second, start writing in “Tell” mode. You will probably hate it (I know I do) and think the resulting prose is crap, but it will get you started and likely through the entire chapter.

“But I don’t want to write garbage! I want my writing to live through the ages!” you may cry. Always keep in mind that what’s written can be edited.

If, after reading the entire stream of points A-thru-C you see a clearer path for the middle, you can rewrite it then. The most important thing to remember is you have finished that problem chapter. Now move on to the next one that you really wanted to write.

Keep Slogging!

Mike

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