We dispense a fair bit of advice on this blog, so I thought all of you would be pleased to know that I actually took my own advice the other day and it actually worked.
I got back from WorldCon energized to write. Unfortunately, I’d been away from home and my current work in progress for three weeks and I had totally forgotten what I was doing with the story. I assumed that I’d read the last two chapters I’d written and would soon find myself back into the flow of the book. Didn’t happen. Some of you may remember that right before I left for our family vacation and WorldCon I wrote a post about The Writer’s Wall, which I generally hit right around the two-thirds mark. That’s where I was when I left for points West. I had hoped to avoid The Wall by taking the time off and coming back to the book fresh. Instead, I found myself running headlong into it. Not fun.
So what did I do? First off, I read through what I’ve written of the book thus far, starting from the very beginning. Why? Because I needed to remind myself of what I’d done with all the various plot threads. I remembered in a vague sense, but sometimes I find that it’s the small details that often act as cues for future plot twists. I needed to familiarize myself once more with the characters, the narrative flow of the book, and the hints I’d left along the way to point my readers and (in this case me as well) in the right direction.
Then I sat down in front of my computer and started writing out a stream of consciousness conversation with myself about what I still needed to do with the book. The first line read, “Help!! What needs to happen at the end of the g__d____d book??!!” As I mentioned in my post about The Wall, this stream of consciousness thing is something I do quite a bit and recommend highly. I ask myself questions and respond to them, typing the entire exchange as I go along. Why do I type it? Personal preference. I tend to process information best visually, particularly when it’s information about writing. If you process information differently, by all means skip the typing part. But this approach usually works for me.
It did this time. I started the stream of consciousness thing late Friday morning. By quitting time Friday afternoon, I’d outlined the remaining chapters of the book. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Hadn’t he outlined the book prior to starting it?” And yes, that would have been a very clever thing to do. Had I done it, I mean. That would have been clever. Outlining is good. Unfortunately, I hadn’t taken that particular piece of advice to heart when I first began. I outlined the early chapters of the book, fully intending to outline the rest once I was well into the project and had a better sense of where the book was headed. I’ve known for a while how the book ends. I just wasn’t entirely certain how to get there. [Note to self: Next time outline the WHOLE book. Idiot.]
Anyway, all is right with the world now. (At least the world I’m writing about. Our own world remains thoroughly screwed up. But that’s a post for a different venue.) I know where I’m going with the book AND I know how to get there. All because I took my own advice. Er. . . except on the whole outlining thing, which I pretty much blew off.
So I guess the moral of this post is that you should take all of our advice to heart and not just pick up on the little snippets that seem to work for you while ignoring the rest. Except that’s terrible advice right there. Not all of our advice is going to work for you. You really should pick and choose. So maybe the moral of this post is that I should take my own advice to heart rather than picking and choosing which things I want to do and which things I don’t. Yes, that’s the moral. Turns out this was really a post for me more than for you. I probably should have mentioned that up front. Could have saved you some time. Sorry about that.