What writer doesn’t get stuck from time to time? There’s nothing like staring at a blank white screen with only a blinking cursor as company to put a writer over the edge. There have been times where I’ve stared for what seems like hours waiting for something to happen (for you non-writers this may sound silly, but stories tend to write themselves). As I stare at a jumble of words that just don’t seem to go anywhere, I thought I’d share my method for getting the story going.
Its simple, really. The main character says “Fuck it” and does something ridiculous before moving on. I rather appropriately call it my “fuck it” rule.
Don’t laugh, it works (at least for me). Yes, it’s forcing the story into a new direction, and most of the time it turns out to be shit. I don’t care. I generally have a laugh and get back to writing. The story gets back on course eventually, and I get another laugh during editing…right before I delete it from existence. That’s the power of writing; you can make shit up and then make it go away.
For example (taken from an UNEDITED deleted scene in the first draft of Stripped):
Paula stood with her back to Samir, knowing what he was doing but not caring one bit. He was distracted, and that was the important thing. She bent over slowly, reaching for the bar of soap as she tilted her ass towards him. She picked it up and looked back…
Right about here I stopped writing. I knew it was wrong, and not just because it was quickly becoming stupid (A bar of soap? She’s going to take him out with a bar of soap?? Who does that???). In the draft, it was too early for Paula to make a move against Samir. She hadn’t yet found her motivation, and she hadn’t even realized she had it in her. Samir was still HMFIC of the ladies, and he still had plenty of ass to kick. Paula confronting Samir this early would have just gotten her beat to shit and made it that much harder to try it again later. I was only mid-way through the first draft, but I knew.
I can’t remember how long I stared at the screen, but I’m certain it was long enough to get up and do something else (probably involving beer, video games, or both). I tried a few times to get things going but just couldn’t move past the scene. Then, not unlike a bar of soap to the head, it hit me. The “fuck it” rule was born.
She picked it up and looked back before dropping it to the floor, muttering “fuck it” under her breath, and moonwalking out the door. Samir stopped and stared as she left, his erection gone but his mouth still open wide.
At this point you may be thinking well that sucks. You’d be right. That’s what editing is for. The point I’m making is that Paula got out of the shower and moved on to a better scene, and with the help of my newly-found and often-used “fuck it” rule I finished the book. In most cases, the questionable scene flat-out sucked and ended up in the bin. In the few cases where it stayed, I simply added a bit of gratuitous violence and it all worked out in the end.
Writers, you’ve no doubt heard this before: finish what you start. If you hit a block, don’t try to weave a graceful narrative with a hammer and chisel. It will probably suck. Instead, force your way past in the stupidest way possible. Not only does it move things along, but it will make it that much easier to hit the “delete” button when you start honing that pile of shit first draft into your masterpiece.