This week I began the first draft of “Holly Green Murder.” First drafts are both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because there’s a brand new story to tell; terrifying because I’m always afraid I won’t know what to write next. Yes, I have a bare-bones outline, and I’ve answered many of the questions I usually have during my brainstorming sessions, but the devil is in the details. Or, in this case, the actual words.
It’s been a while since I wrote any fiction, and like an unused muscle, my brain is kind of stiff and takes a bit of a warm-up. Coming off a cold start, it sputters and threatens to stall until an idea, sometimes something that’s not even in the outline, gets it rolling.
I’ve always been afraid that I wouldn’t know what to write next. If you stop until the perfect idea or turn of phrase comes to you, that’s usually called writer’s block. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but I think it’s a myth. You might have writer’s brain fart, but rarely is anyone totally blocked. Unless they believe they are.
Dean Wesley Smith taught me how to avoid writer’s block. I found his advice during NaNoWriMo, when the object is to write a minimum number of words each day. Not necessarily good words, just enough words. What Dean said was that when you don’t know what to write, write the next sentence. Then do it again. And again. And if you keep putting words on the page, all of a sudden they’ll start flowing.
I had that happen today.
I was writing a bit that is mostly foreshadowing for a later scene. I wanted to show my readers this place before a body shows up in it. Since discovering a body would most likely wipe out everything else that appears in the scene, what the place looks like, how you get there, what it sounds and smells like, I’ve found it useful to have Lilliana go to that place earlier in the book so all those details are already available to the reader.
But as I described where she was, I realized nothing was happening in that scene other than the description of where she was walking. Bor-ing!
But I didn’t know what happened next, so I kept typing one sentence at a time. A little bit more description. A sound. Basically an empty room I was filling with furniture and carpeting and such. (No, it wasn’t an actual room, but I don’t want to give away too much at this early stage.)
And then two moving men carrying a couch showed up.
Well, that sounded interesting. Whose couch was it? Where were they taking it? Was the person moving in or moving out? Why?
And my stuttering single sentences turned into a finger race to type the words fast enough.
I love when that happens.