The Skeleton Plot

The last thin wisps of steam evaporate over my tea as I stare despairingly at the computer screen.  I change the font to trick myself into thinking that I’ve written more, but quickly change it back.  Slightly disgusted, I rummage through a tattered folder and pull out a loose plot summary.  The next piece of the puzzle is right in front of me.  Setting the folder aside, I scroll over the scene from last week.  I know what I need to do.  I just can’t.  Not yet.  I reheat the earl grey and procrastinate a little longer.

Half of the semester has passed, and I have written twenty-five crappy pages for my senior thesis.  Every weekend, I procrastinate by hanging out with my family, taking walks with my fiance, and folding paper flowers for our wedding.  As time grows short, take a deep breath and crank out another five.  I prod my characters into action, adding scenery so that they don’t float in the vacuum of space. 

“Hi,” she said, and sat at the table.

Riveting, right?  I am writing a skeleton plot, and all that matters is the progression of each lackluster scene.  Since I am detail oriented, this is a painful, but very important process.  Often I hear fellow novices say, “I like writing novels.  I get stuck at about X pages, so I delete it.”  I respond: “Aah! Murder!” 

Here’s what I’ve learned over the past few years:

  1. Before you toss it, examine the characters and the plot.  Need to make any adjustments?  Fix a few scenes, but don’t edit the crap out of it unless you absolutely need to. 
  2. Press on.  Get the whole horrible thing out into a word document, from beginning to end.  It might feel like vomit, but at least it’s out, right?  Go brush your teeth. 
  3. Brilliant details can come later.  Write the first draft for yourself; you don’t have to impress anyone, just tell your story.  Then work on communicating with the reader in the second draft, through rounding the characters and enriching their world. 

I ought to start working on my next five pages, but my tea is getting cold and other homework presses.  Before I go, I’d like to hear from you.  Have you finished a story, or do you keep deleting?  How do you push through writer’s block? 

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