Return to the Extreme Pantser’s Guide: In the Middle of the Pants

First off, I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a wonderful one. I certainly did, and completely forgot to post anything as a result. Sorry…

Moving on. I’m continuing with the Pantser’s Guide posts, not least because I’m slowly crawling out of the hole made by the combination of that time of life and general work and other stress. I’m improving. Not quite back to my normal snark-tastic self yet, but getting there.

So without further ado, some advice on what to do when your find yourself lost in the middle of the pants.

The Pantser Body of Knowledge: In the Middle of the Pants

Middles are often where pantsers have problems. There’s several reasons for this, but the big one is that we pantsers usually know the immediate future of the story, and have an idea how it ends, but what happens in between is pretty vague. With me the problem manifests in false starts — stories that I think have a novel, get anywhere from 10k words in up, then realize that there just isn’t enough there to sustain a novel. What tends to happen is that aspects of these false starts find their way into other books as subplots, or they get revived with extra material from a different false start.

So how to avoid getting stranded in the middle of the pants? It might be better than the damp crotch of the pants, but it’s still not a good place to be. Most of the legs have little ‘here be dragons’ signs, and it’s hard to find a viable way out. Sometimes you can’t even retrace your steps (we won’t talk about what happened to the pants in this case – you probably don’t want to know).

I can’t offer a definitive answer to this, and not just because I’m far from being without sin myself. The main reason I can’t say “do this, and it will work” is that every pantser is different, and extreme pantsers even more so. Everything from the mental exercises we use to switch on that precious flow of wordage from somewhere to the way the things we experience find their way into our writing is different.

That said, these are some of the things I’ve found helpful when stranded in the middle of the pants.

  • Writing exercises. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise, just something to get back into the mode of fingers on keyboard and words pouring out. I’ve personally found that the exercise of writing blog posts about writing helps to get my mind working the right way to write fiction.
  • Doing it anyway. Sometimes you’ve just got to struggle through even though it’s like pulling teeth. I’ve got more than one published short story that was done this way. This is where knowing the craft really saves your anatomy: you can produce something that might not be quite right, but it’s at least going in more or less the correct direction using craft alone.
    For pantsers, this isn’t easy, and it’s even less pleasant, but it can be done. If you’ve learned your craft well enough, you can find that ten years later not even you can tell which parts you had to fight and which ones flowed.
  • Reread and microplot. I mentioned a couple of sections back that I obsessively narrate the next part in my head, working through possible options that way. Sometimes rereading from the start of a stuck piece then mentally exploring where it goes from there is enough to unstuck.
  • Work on something else, and keep your fingers crossed. This is probably the most dangerous method of dealing with a story trapped in the middle of the pants. It’s why I have such a flourishing collection of starts. Sometimes you can mentally refresh by working elsewhere, and sometimes not.
  • Learn plotting, characterization, world-building and all the other techniques so you can recognize before you get stuck that the story isn’t novel length – then let it resolve in its own space. With the explosion of epublishing, you’re not held to the official lengths where anything that’s between 10K and 90K words is effectively unmarketable. That’s right. The novella is coming back.
  • Don’t start it unless you know where it’s ending. I know I’ve broken this one, but for less experienced pantsers, it really does help. By all means put it in your ideas file, however you handle that, but wait until the story give you some kind of resolution to the mess it’s handed you before you start to write. When I looked back over some of my old starts, recently, I found this was the problem with every single one. I had no idea what they were aimed at, so they got themselves lost in the desert of the pants legs.
  • On a related note, don’t start it if you don’t have at least some glimmerings of a story. It’s all very well to have a wonderful setting and fascinating characters, but if they’re just hanging around doing their normal thing, well, it’s fun to visit, but it’s not a story. Remember, “The King died then the Queen died” is a sequence of events. “The King died then the Queen died of grief” is a story (A pretty cruddy story, but a story nonetheless. The Queen did something because of what had happened, leading to an ending). Yes, I’ve done this, too. I’m not sure how many starts I’ve got where it’s basically interesting character having “adventures” in a neat location, but there’s nothing driving it and nowhere to go.
  • Look for the reasons and the motivations. This is possibly one of the scariest ways to get yourself out of the kudzu-infested middle of the pants, because you won’t actually know where you’re going or why. Here’s how it works for me: I know what got my character/characters into this mess. I know who they are and why they do things (mostly. I have a few who don’t think I need to know these things). So given where they are right now, what would they do next? Rinse and repeat until you get an idea of how to get out of the pants-kudzu.
  • Drop a mountain on them. By all means try to avoid this as a plot method, especially if the mountain is coming out of nowhere, but if you can go back over what you had and find some apparently innocuous act of your character(s) that could generate a really nasty blowback about now, use it. That mouthy peasant your knight smacked down is actually a spy for a rival, and he’s set up an ambush that your knight can walk into and barely survive. The magical oops your wizard made has done the butterfly effect and generated a massive storm targeted on him. The nonentity your space pilot killed in a bar brawl was the son of the space station owner, and when your pilot tries to land with low fuel and air reserves and a cargo of valuables, he’s nearly blown to pieces. The possibilities here are endless. If necessary, go back and insert the incident that triggers your mountain now. Just don’t go overboard – too much mountain dropping, and your readers will start getting suspicious each time the pace slows and be looking for the next one. Also, the words, “Yeah, right.” are the kiss of death. You get that response from anything, you need to insert extra foreshadowing or change what you did.
  • Above all, don’t be afraid to let it suck. Trust me, it’s better to have something that you finish and can fix than it is to have a lost start. Even if sometimes you can’t fix it just yet because it’s… well. The Epic with Everything comes to mind here. I can’t fix that yet, although despite its flaws it has pull. I just don’t have the skills to fix it, yet. On the plus side, it is finished.

This isn’t a complete listing, either. Anyone who’s run into other ways of dealing with the strange ways of the middle of the pants is welcome to add their suggestions for finding a good leg. I’d love to hear them – a new technique is always helpful.

Meanwhile, don’t despair. Strange as the pants are, there’s usually a trouser leg you can use.

46 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

46 responses to “Return to the Extreme Pantser’s Guide: In the Middle of the Pants

  1. Draven

    in media braccae?

  2. paladin3001

    Current WIP was started after I was working on another one and realized I was missing a whole bunch of stuff. Back burner and start over. (I will return to it later). So pantsing away at my WIP, and road block. This one is a bit different than the previous finished WiP which followed mostly one POV. This one is a couple POV’s. So roadblock, change POV. Now I have to figure out what the Captain is dealing with while the other characters are trudging around a former shopping mall in the middle of a bleak winter.
    Trying to get fingers on the keyboard here. Barely getting the minimum words I have set out for myself done lately.

  3. I’ve discovered that sometime my pants are more like eight-legged trousers, and then I need to cut off a few legs to make the story less boring. Because I get bored writing it. So rather than wandering all over, I try to cut out the slow bridges and make the plot faster moving.

  4. Ha, ha. I dropped a mountain on top of the hero of my first novel to kill her. She got better, as in she repeated the same day all over again, kind of better.

  5. Sigh. I need to get back to the river trip of my WIP. That’s the middle portion. Beginning? Check. Climax and conclusion? Check. The major mountain? Check. A few smaller mountains? Check. But the problem is what they’re doing is mundane, and while interesting for the first few pages, is boring for page after page. I’ve tried to introduce necessary tension (it’s a buddy story), but there’s only so much before it becomes trite.They’ve already encountered River pirates; rescued crew from a boat broken up on rocks (and retrieved a body), and before they got to the river ran into wolves, a bear, and bandits. Worse, they’ve got to think they’ve gotten this all down for when the big mountain drops on them, so they need some smooth sailing.

    I guess I’ll just slog through. It’s already close to 50,000 words, and I was aiming for over 90,000 (juvenile novel, 4th – 8th Grade range). The most significant thing to shake out is that the timeline for the two series are too compressed.

    • Kevin, are you sure about those numbers? Because I’d say that 90K for a J or even a YA novel is awfully long. I suspect that 50K is actually a good stop point for a J level novel. Also, write the story, not the wordcount. When the story is done, be done.

      • Sure about the numbers, yes. Sure that it should be around 90K? No. The first book, for the same and groups, which I’ve already uploaded to Amazon and plan to release in January, is in the 80K range. Yes, I know it may crater horribly.

        Why was it around 80K? Because it took that many words to tell the story. I originally wrote it for family, who still loved the world of a fairy tale, but by that point were advanced in reading until the stuff target for their ages was too simple. But, as a teacher pointed out, the books on their level often had concepts kids at that age were not able to grasp well, or would find disturbing.

        Thus came the first. It was to be a fairy tale, but for some reason there was no place for magic. It was an adventure set in a fictional 14th Century European country, which gave it enough of a fairy tale feel to find appealing. The story isn’t all that convoluted, though the vocabulary is for more advanced readers. It’s designed to be read aloud, with the anticipation of two chapters a night, and it’s paced that way – an exciting chapter with a cliffhanger followed by a calmer chapter, the better to go to sleep on. This also makes for a large number of chapters, which, I hope, will be enough to make it easily digestible. It was for our family’s younger members, who’d pour over it and the others, but some of that may be “Daddy wrote this for us.”

        Note that this is all assumption and hope. Obviously, I don’t know what I’m doing. The only thing I can say is that the first Harry Potter book is in the 80K range, to which the obvious response is “True, but you’re no J.K. Rowling,” an observation I’ll accept. Maybe 80K – 90K is too big for 4th – 8th grades. But there’s no good place to break the ones already written.

        The only notion I had length-wise was to make them all consistent. My assumption is that it’s like a type of branding, that if you get a book in this series that you’ll know it’s action-adventure and it’s going to be about 80K – 90K words long. That’s all. And, again, I don’t know what I’m doing.

        • To be honest, I’m starting to think that the idea that 80-90k words is ‘too much for 4-th to 8th graders to handle’ is not a good one; children ate up Harry Potter because they liked the characters and got sucked into the story. They’re not going to care that a book is thick if the story is good.

          If anything, let’s be grateful that Rowling got kids interested in books again, and I think we should focus on telling the story. If that’s how many words it takes, then that’s what it takes, in my opinion.

          • By the time I was 4th grade I read at an adult level (not all that unusual back in my era) and soon hit on an easy way to find books that didn’t talk down to me (because a side effect was that I found books targeted at kids *boring*): the thicker the better.

            Cripes, in junior high my mom read Gone With the Wind enough times to wear it out. Thick enough for ya? 🙂

            • Yep, yep, yep, especially to the ‘didn’t talk down to me’.

              One of the problems is this enduring perception that reading is gauche, and boring, and that a thick book = very boring. But, as the Harry Potter books proved, that is not an obstacle if everyone (kids or otherwise) says ‘this story is freaking amazing, you gotta read it!’

      • Second Attempt:

        Sure about the numbers, yes. Sure that it should be around 90K? No. The first book, for the same and groups, which I’ve already uploaded to Amazon and plan to release in January, is in the 80K range. Yes, I know it may crater horribly.

        Why was it around 80K? Because it took that many words to tell the story. I originally wrote it for family, who still loved the world of a fairy tale, but by that point were advanced in reading until the stuff target for their ages was too simple. But, as a teacher pointed out, the books on their level often had concepts kids at that age were not able to grasp well, or would find disturbing.

        Thus came the first. It was to be a fairy tale, but for some reason there was no place for magic. It was an adventure set in a fictional 14th Century European country, which gave it enough of a fairy tale feel to find appealing. The story isn’t all that convoluted, though the vocabulary is for more advanced readers. It’s designed to be read aloud, with the anticipation of two chapters a night, and it’s paced that way – an exciting chapter with a cliffhanger followed by a calmer chapter, the better to go to sleep on. This also makes for a large number of chapters, which, I hope, will be enough to make it easily digestible. It was for our family’s younger members, who’d pour over it and the others, but some of that may be “Daddy wrote this for us.”

        Note that this is all assumption and hope. Obviously, I don’t know what I’m doing. The only thing I can say is that the first Harry Potter book is in the 80K range, to which the obvious response is “True, but you’re no J.K. Rowling,” an observation I’ll accept. Maybe 80K – 90K is too big for 4th – 8th grades. But there’s no good place to break the ones already written.

        The only notion I had length-wise was to make them all consistent. My assumption is that it’s like a type of branding, that if you get a book in this series that you’ll know it’s action-adventure and it’s going to be about 80K – 90K words long. That’s all. And, again, I don’t know what I’m doing.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      What are they doing for supplies? Fishing? How’s the fishing? Do they end up wrangling with people over fishing rights along the way?

      • Can they learn a new skill and one be better than the other? Can they tell “fireside” stories about either the past or the future? For a great river story check out John Wesley Powell’s diary Down the Colorado. Might find some ideas there. I teach middle school and the kids love three minutes of John W P now and then.

        • They’ve taught their crew how to use staves. One main character is pretty well versed in shield and axe, and it turns out another main character is better than he with a stave. That turns problematic when it’s no longer like sparing and he goes berzerker. He’s recently discovered that he does that, and has to deal with it – an older character has told him that berzkers who can’t control it tend to die in battle and are sung about, but those who can keep their wits tend to live long lives. This especially hits home because he’s sparing with a friend, and when he comes to himself …

          There’s a sit-down scene where they tell something about themselves, one evening before turning in. It’s important because some things about the “passenger” doesn’t add up.

          John Wesley Powell’s diary. Will have to give it a look. I’ve been basing this on oral histories, past along by those who used to float timber rafts.

      • This is set in the 14th Century, and they need a job and to get to a certain place, and headed toward a major trade town on the thin hopes of an old job offer. There’s heavy river traffic and trade to another major trade town. Except they couldn’t get anyone to hire them. So they end up going themselves with a crew that’s never been on the river (against all advice, because they’re desperate). They had enough money to outfit a small boat, and their crew, such as it, works for a share of the profits.

        The downstream portion is uneventful, though the “captain” has them rowing to build up their muscles and to get them used to it before heading upstream. A “passenger” fishes, which provides some meat, and they’re heavy into the bread and cheese. Fishing is what they can get as the boat travels. Bread is made each morning by the “passenger,” who sets the dough to rise overnight, and is baked before day.

        There’s two major river hazards: a stretch with strong current that’s going to be hard going heading back, and rapids that have to be portaged (at an expense). They have to pay tariffs when they cross a border. They faced pirates, and seen a bit of “river justice” from the boatmen in handling such. But since it’s a heavily traveled and important trade route, the kingdom they pass through deals swiftly with what the boatmen can’t.

        It’s roughly based on the pole boats in the pre-steamship days, except with a higher local population that makes things civilized.

        When they get to the major trade down, they find there’s a reason their cargo was so affordable. How can they even earn back what they’ve spent just for that? And the prices of the other trade goods are sobering. To top it off, the “passenger” discovers that the family she was hoping to find refuge with left during a recent war and hasn’t returned, and one of her benefactors is recognized, and that’s not good at all. But that’s at the trade town.

        There’s enough action going downriver that it’s not that bad. But going upriver is the problem. I might could have some anxious moments with their cargo, which is just valuable enough to let them turn a profit. The trip upriver takes longer, and obviously a travelogue is going to be boring. I’m trying to ramp up internal tension so that it’s not boring.

        When they return the big mountain drops, big as in all their dreams vanish and the lives of three are in peril. But they, and the reader, has to get back upriver first.

        • 2 cents… They should work out their internal tensions going down river and now be a well oiled machine. They should pass the rapids going back up with relative ease because of their new ability to work together. They can be mistaken for spies or have someone try to smuggle using them, just small incidents that you complete so they think they are home free and then they aren’t. Whatever your final blow is will probably take longer to write than you think — I mean more words. Look at the pacing in a Georgette Heyer book. Sometimes the last scene takes nearly a quarter of the book but only half an hour or so in “life”. I’m thinking Cotillion. (And you know what advice from amateurs is worth…)

          • Heh. It wouldn’t be “mistaken,” though right now they just want to make a living and stay out of slavery. They both have reputations. But crowds are easy places to hide, and there’s a lot of going and coming on the river. But at the big conclusion, they march up to the home of the local constabulary, who knows one of the buddies, with legitimate business. When that’s resolved, he tells them to go back and not come down the river again.

            This is very much like the old river accounts of rafts or pole boats. It’s like a long haul trucker making a run between two points and not wanting to run “bobtail” between either destination because you don’t make money if you don’t haul freight. Their destination is a big trade town to sell goods to other traders, and to buy cargo to take back to the other major trading town. They stay out of towns in between, both because they are now practically broke, and one could be recognized. So they do like the most of the other boat crews, put in for the night on the river bank.

            I’ve already written the big mountain drop. It takes most of the chapter. It seems their passenger isn’t who she seems and has been lying from the start. It’s all written from that point to the conclusion, where they go to get her out of trouble and end up in a fight to the death.

      • There’s also the issue of violence at this age level There’s nothing terribly explicit and absolutely no gory descriptions, but there’s two desperate fights, one to the death, a couple of hangings, and a drowned man. This one is a bit more intense than the others.

        • Well, all I can say is it sounds like what I would have picked out to read when I was junior-high: Is it written for [what we’d now call] an advanced reader? Does it smell like historical fiction? Gimme. I’ll deal with “intense”; you wouldn’t be my first.

  6. Breakfast words. I first used this for NaNo, but it works other times, too. You have to write ten words at breakfast. It’s ok to write more, of course, but you have to write ten. This kicks your brain into gear, neurons start firing, ideas come out of the back room, and you at least know what’s going to happen next. Also, you feel you’ve accomplished something.You may have to wait a couple hours while you go to the day job for the ideas to start, but they’ll come because you touched the document.

    Now, I crashed and burned in NaNo this year because I was working on one POV when the story required two POVs. At least I learned that. The other point of view is the engineer and I need to do a lot of research for her stuff. I learned that, too.

  7. When stuck, I wander over and ask one of the off-stage characters what’s going on at their place. Usually something interesting can be found that way, and with a bit of fiddling about can be discovered to be Very Important to the main plot. If there is one. 0.o D’oh!

    Or, I can wander over and see what the Bad Guys are doing. That’s where I found an excuse to shoehorn “Laura Montgomery, Space Lawyer!!!” into the mix, she was an unwilling participant in enemy action. She gets to go dig out some bad guys from deep cover later, with a little help from cute aliens, or lippy robot spiders, or some other suitably insolent character.

    Maybe Alice in her Mobile Infantry mecha suit. Space Lawyer meets Zombie Hunter, deep in the middle of the pants. Hmm, on the front lawn of FAA head office. Yeah, that might be something.

    See? Always check that little watch pocket. There might be interesting lint in there. ~:D

  8. Holly

    If I know where it ends then it doesn’t want to be written any further.

    At least I write to amuse myself and not the rest of the world!

  9. I’m planning on dropping a mountain on my characters. Of course, I have a passing interest in geology, so there are ways to do that which follow logically from the setting.

  10. Dorothy Grant

    I have a great many starts and very few finishes. Guess it’s time to work my way down the rest of the list, as I’ve found a few fixes to be underwhelming!

    (An hour of free-writing this morning was only successful in producing a to-do list, budgetary action items I’d overlooked, and a recipe for Tuesday night’s writers group dinner. Sigh.)

  11. Above all, don’t be afraid to let it suck.

    *Groan* You had to go there didn’t you? I know it stinks, yeah, but I make no apologies for it. I’ve got a permission slip and I’m going to wear the hell out of it. WIP 2,3 & definitely 4 will need a massive rewrite. To nip out the tell and put in the show, to make the punch punchier, to draw out things a bit so it’s not so compressed, to pinch it down where it gets lost in the weeds, etc.

    Also, I know of one writer and style that made good money out of dropping mountains. Raymond Chandler (among others) and classic noire detective stories. They were mostly short, novella or less, and I think you can get away with that in short form a lot better than long form. Just from observation.

    And finally, I need to get out of the habit of ending chapters in the middle of the action. It’s gonna get old and bore the hell out of readers if it keeps up. One day those cliffhangers are going to come back and bite me…

    • Mary

      That’s an excellent habit. Chapters are a good place to stop reading; you want to make sure the reader reads on. Better his discovering it’s 2AM than putting down the book and never coming back.

      • Personally, I hate it. I’ll stop reading wherever I must anyway; cliffhanger chapter divisions do nothing but disrupt the action, and give me a reason why I no longer care.

        That said, there’s a difference between ending a chapter by finishing the current action but in the process setting a lure, and stopping in mid-action for no reason except to have a chapter break and hope the reader falls off the cliff into the next chapter.

  12. Mary

    “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”

    This has two issues, one in that you have to foreshadow him, or deal with him subsequently so that he’s part of the story, and the second in that you have to decide what an appropriate “man with a gun in his hand” is. Drop a mountain on your character? Have a dragon fly over the fair and send all the people who might have told her sometime running? Set something on fire?

    And, off topic, at 32,600 typed up in November, for a total of work of 53,700, I have complete my November not-quite NaNoWriMo!

    • Mary

      I note the dragon was actually the application of another rule of mine: if you’re stuck even though you think you know what happens next, make the opposite thing happen.

  13. Off topic, but of interest, the Raging Mob has chosen Greg Hullender as this week’s witch to burn at the PC stake. Over pronouns, it seems.

    Normally I’d take great pleasure in mockery as the Lefties turned on one of their own and savor the piping hot schadenfreude. But this time it just pissed me off.

    Really, at some point we need to start supporting people when the rats turn on them, and this is my point. Hullender works hard, he does a hell of a lot of reviews, and if he doesn’t want to use the “correct pronouns” tough shit for them. The SJWs should cram their fake outrage where the sun never shines.

    • I seldom find myself in agreement with Greg, but he’s usually been reasonably polite and rational. It’s a shame to see a bunch of SJW’s attack him (or anybody) over piddly stuff like that.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Yeah, he doesn’t deserve this.

        • Doesn’t matter to me if he *did,* actually. Bad behavior is bad behavior- no matter if it perpetrated by a saint against an utter heel, or a villain against another of his ilk.

          A standard of behavior- morals- should be just that. Standard. Expected from all adults. That common decency and simple courtesy have become so rare saddens me, even when the left does it to one of their own.

          There is an argument to be made, that a man has to have his face rubbed in his own failures to see the results of his actions. Perhaps, in some cases, that is true. And perhaps as well, common decency and courtesy have not served the common man well when dealing with the uncivilized. That does not appear to be the case here.

          *shakes head*

          Woe betide us all, that we might one day get what we deserve as well. What grace we’ve been given to be spared that is a blessing.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            One can think that someone needs killin’ and at the same time think they ought not be murdered.

            There are lots of people we can reasonably be certain that we need to make die. Yet we also need reasonable restrictions on the processes by which we can make that happen. Lest, unregulated, said processes get out of control and cause worse problems than wasting oxygen.

        • John Smith

          I’m the first to say that I haven’t been shy about firing on Mr. Hullender’s position. Since Sad Puppies first started I’ve been launching on him and that hasn’t changed.

          But for his own guys to turn and attack him like mad dogs in the street? Over -nothing-? That is ugly. I’m not putting up with that.

          Next time flopatron and china mike stick their heads in here, they are going to get it, let me tell you. The whole nine yards. They suck a lot more than I thought.

      • I think you might have put your thumb on the real reason they’re going after him so hard.

      • That’s why I’m not about to pretend to be friends with Greg Hullender. His Rocket Stack rates stories in a way that keeps the Hugos as the hive of scum and villainy that it has been these last 30 years. Goodreads consistently comes out with similar ratings, possibly through sock puppetry as Paolinelli suggests, or by some other chicanery.

        But I will be damned if I cooperate with the kind of backstabbery being shown by these vile clowns. Hullender has an opinion, and he is free to express that opinion. Locus and the other idiot organizations cutting him loose with such unseemly haste were lucky to have him. I’d boycott them for their cupidity and disloyalty to one of their own, but I’m already boycotting them 100% for what they’ve done to Sad Puppies authors.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      This emperor who is right about the problems tolerance of deviance causes society thinks they should be roasted slowly over their own standards.

  14. Don’t start it unless you know where it’s ending

    Or at least have an idea of a story. I’ve come up with snippets, scenes, and been told “Write it” but there is no “it” there to be written, that I can see. Not that there is no “it” – it’s that I, myself, do not see it, not even in a “Well, let’s try this path though the foggy swamp of an idea.” sort of way.

  15. clint02554

    “Above all, don’t be afraid to let it suck.”

    This, a thousand times. I can’t write at all with my internal editor active. And if I tell myself the first three ideas are bad, just because they’re cliches, I don’t get to find out the next ten ideas, some of which will be much better.

    Sometimes, I just need half an hour of something mindless — driving to the store, walking the dog. My subconscious needs to work over the next scene before I can write it down.

    Other times, it helps to rehearse a conversation explaining my WIP to someone. (Better not to subject real people to this, too often!) This can remind me why I’m excited to tell this story, or just what the story looks like from above when I’m lost in the weeds.

    Occasionally, I get stuck because the next bit depends on the reaction or decision of a minor character, and I’m stuck in my PoV character’s head. I once had to write a 3k word police procedural before I could write the scene of my PoV character calling the cops.