Most articles about writing will encourage you to write out an outline before you get started on a story.
I almost never do. I don’t like them. I prefer to sit down and let the words flow and find a meaning and shape of their own. The result is sometimes quite random, a little chaotic, and occasionally pointless. But it’s the way I write and thus far it’s worked for me.
But I still occasionally run into bouts of writer’s block. Moments when I’m halfway through a story and I have no idea what to do next. The middle is often the hardest part – I know where to start my character, and where I want them to end up, but I have no idea how to get them there.
Here lately I’ve been working on a Suspense short story for the Wicked Bag of Suspense Tales challenge over at Wicked East Press. The idea is that someone picked the genre (suspense) and another writer picked my prompt. I have until October to come up with a 10k-15k story using that genre and prompt.
At first the word count was immensely daunting. I usually write 5k words at most, although I used to be a very verbose writer. So this time around I decided to resort to some tricks I never use.
First, I created an outline. And then I tried to write my story. But it was missing something. So I added another character, went back and re-did my outline. And started a rewrite.
Second, and probably my favorite new tool when working on a piece of this length, I began to ‘pre-write’ without actually writing. By that I mean, usually the night before I’d write a particular section I would fall asleep while imagining the next part of the story out. At times I would go a whole day or two without writing – just imagining the scene in my head and changing things, etc, any time I had a quiet moment.
The effect is glorious. When I would sit down to actually write afterward – there would be no awkward silences. My fingers fly over the keys and everything just flows. I know exactly where to go, without actually knowing the words until they come out on their own accord. I can still have freedom to change things, but I don’t run into those moments where I’m tapping my arm rest and wondering where to go.
So far I’m at about 9,700 words and I’m not finished. I think the tale will end up at around 15,000 words, and I’ll probably have to cut quite a bit of it to make it actually ‘suspenseful.’
All in all, I’m discovering that things I thought were impossible are actually possible. I’ve learned some new tools to evade writer’s block and get that word count I need without forcing myself through a miserable ordeal.
If you’ve never tried imagining out a scene for a couple days before writing, I highly recommend it. Especially if you struggle with writer’s block or don’t have an outline. It works for me – at least this time!
~Alexis A. Hunter