Thursday, March 18, 2010

iLesson One: Skip to the End

I am lucky enough to meet weekly with a great group of writers at the DFW Writer's Workshop. And while I learn a lot at critique sessions, some of the most important things I've learned about writing come from sitting around at IHOP after our Wednesday meetings. Gabbing about life, solving the world's problems, and most importantly, discussing how to make our writing suck less.

I know y'all would love to be a fly on the wall during these gab sessions, so here begins a series of writing tips that I'm going to call iLessons. Not because they have anything to do with Apple (other than being written on one), but because these pearls of wisdom were discussed over pancakes and too much coffee.

Lesson One: Skip to the End

This was actually one of the very first pieces of advice from my BFF Candace Havens. I never thought I would be one of those "out of order" writers. I am all about things happening in the right order. So I pretty much disregarded this advice until I found myself in the middle of Prom Dates From Hell, writing in circles and just digging myself deeper.

So I skipped ahead. To that pivotal moment in the plot when the hero has gathered all the clues and metaphorical loot she needs, and is at the threshold to the last dungeon, where the Big Boss Fight awaits. In Buffy terms, it's that scene in Giles' library right before the shot of B. and the Scooby gang walking in slow motion down the school corridor to take on the monster of the week.

By the time I've roughed in the climax, I know what clues my heroine needs to make the final connections, and also the emotional point I need to get her to in order to make her almost final leap into the fire. So I know exactly what I have to write to bridge that gap. I have a target, and I stop second guessing myself.

So when I hit that point where I'm going in circles and not advancing the plot, or I don't know what happens next, I skip ahead to the next thing I *am* sure about, and (above all) keep writing.


  1. OMG! This is exactly what I do! I thought I was being weird. Thanks for sharing, Rosemary!

    P.S. And just so everyone knows, the word verification in the posting form is coming-up with semi-naughty words today...hmmm...

  2. LOL. I wonder if it will encourage people to comment.

    Also, I have no idea why this posted in a smaller, weirder font that *does not match the rest of my blog*. Is it weird that it's driving me crazy?

  3. I really need to do this. I'm so bogged down in the middle of not one, but two stories that I'm about to shave my head.

    Also, I need to get my butt back out to the workshop.

  4. Great advice. I can be obsessive about writing sequentially, but I definitely get stuck at points. So I'm going to have to try this method when I hit a wall.

    And as for the font, my blogger does the same thing and adds extra line breaks for no apparent reason as well. Very annoying.

  5. Ellise -- I swear this advice changed my writing life. You don't even have to skip to the end, just the next point that you know has to happen. It is the ONE thing that gets me out of that rut in the middle where I keep writing and writing (Or, um, not) but don't advance the story.

    Roni--I used to be obsessive about writing sequentially, too, but I swear this works. (However, I can't bounce around. I can't just write random scenes. I have to skip ahead and then bridge the gap before I can go on to anything else, sequential or not.)

  6. Forget the eighteenth century Salons on Paris...all the profound thinking is done over a short stack with extra butter.

    Viva la Maison internationale de Crêpes!

  7. It's true... without IHOP, I would be a sucky writer. :)

    Now, if Chapter Ten and I can just work out our little tiff....

  8. I wish we had an IHop here, all I get is the yummy looking commercials....

    Anywho, super excited about this new iLesson series, great start! I've always been kind of OCD with what I write, making sure I dig my way through something I'm basically kicking into mush when I have a perfect plan for something that happens in about a hundred pages. Time to shake things up a little ;)


  9. Wow great advice...
    And it makes me really excited; are you writing a new book right now? If so can you give us any details? I loved THE SPLENDOR FALLS dearly and would love to have any info at all on whether you'll have another book out soon or not :D

  10. Jamie, you and Chapter 10 just need to get over it. :-) See that last two words of my post? Move forward. :)

    Aliya-- that "kicking things to mush" thing happens to me, too! I always thought it was cheating to go forward to my lovely plan, but it's not. Once you write the next part, you'll know exactly what you need in the mushy part, and what you can do without.

    Amy-- Thanks! I loved writing TSF. I've turned in another book, so hopefully I'll have word soon when it will be coming out! I'll keep y'all posted.

  11. Thanks for starting these lessons! I already skip around when I write, but it's nice to know that it's actually recommended. I find that I finish books faster and I write much better stories when I skip ahead to the parts that I know exactly what to write for and fill in the blanks later.
    I'm looking forward to the next lesson!

  12. Allison--I actually don't skip ahead as much as I should. I have some spots in this new book (first draft) where I could probably have been more... I dont know. Streamlined getting over one of those bridges. I find that when I'm 'filling in' I'm usually more efficient about it.