I read all about it in Chris's book, No Plot, No Problem. And I believe his method has merit. Obviously, it works for HIM. Probably for lots of other people, too. And it's a fact that if it weren't for his brainchild, NaNoWriMo, there's NO WAY I would be attempting to write an entire book in my "free" time this month. But I finally had to admit that, for me, "no plot" had become a serious problem. And I wasn't sure how to solve it.
Just a little something I put together one day when I SHOULD have been writing.
Granted, the honeymoon period was fun. For a few days, I hummed along--enjoying the ride, unconcerned with the destination--introducing my characters, settings, and their basic conflicts. Then I got stuck. I tried to keep writing anyway. Because, frankly, I didn't think I had time to stop and make decisions. It was all I could do to get my 1667 words done every day. So I started doing social experiments with my characters, placing them in random situations and describing what happened, doing whatever it took to meet my word count goal for the day, regardless of whether or not the prose was interesting or actually moved my story forward, completely ignoring the derision expressed by my "inner editor."
But after a couple of days, I simply couldn't go on like that. I felt like I was wasting my time, even though I was being "productive." That's when I hit the wall. But rather than face up to what was really happening, I found ways to distract myself from it. I went shopping online. I went to the mall. I cleaned. I cooked. I baked. I read. I knitted.
By Monday night, I had fallen several thousand words behind my word count goal. So about ten o'clock, after I had met all my responsibilities for the day , I forced myself to sit with my laptop, vowing not to sleep until I completed 2000 words. I should have just turned out the light and gone to bed, because not only did I not write another word, I didn't accomplish anything else, either. I literally sat and stared at the screen for hours. (Okay, I did take breaks to check email, facebook, twitter, and the like. But I was utterly powerless to write.)
It was 4AM by the time I finally admitted defeat. And since I had promised Nathan I would help him with homework at 7:30, I couldn't even sleep in. Which made yesterday a veeery long day. I did manage a few hundred words after he left for school. I even employed a "trick" suggested in No Plot, No Problem. Using the "Replace" feature in Microsoft Word, I changed my main character's name to from "Hilda" to "Hilda Sue" and her son's name from simply "Robby" to "Robby Bob," which also increased my word count slightly (and provided me with a much-needed laugh). But deep inside, I felt like a fraud.
By the time I finished teaching that night, I was too tired to do writing. It didn't matter. My tires were spinning in the mud. I was sitting still at a crossroads trying to figure out which road to take. Choose your metaphor; I was getting nowhere with my novel and the clock just kept ticking. Night owl that I usually am, I was asleep before ten o'clock. But as I drifted off to sleep, my muse gently prodded me: "You need an outline... You need an outline..."
So this morning I pulled out my pad of sticky notes and wrote a sentence summing up each of the major scenes of my story so far. Then I brainstormed future possibilities. Finally, I took all the sticky notes and arranged them in a logical sequence. (Thanks to the ladies from Petit Fours and Hot Tamales for sharing this storyboard technique at the M & M Conference in October!) In the process, I found a few holes and I changed my mind about some of the chronology of some of the previously written sections. But what is important is that NOW I KNOW WHERE MY STORY IS HEADED. I saw places where there were problems, figured out ways to solve those problems, and came up with possibilities about how the story might end.
Not exactly a detailed outline. But just what I needed.
Finally, I was ready to write. I started by changing "Hilda Sue" back to "Hilda" and "Robby Bob" back to "Robby." My conscience clear, I set to work. I had only about an hour left until I started teaching. But I managed about 1200 words, almost effortlessly. I don't know how good they are, and I might change my mind half a dozen times about some of the details I decided today. But at least I am moving forward again.