Yes, it's almost time for Nano (National Novel Writing Month) and as mentioned my novel this year isn't planned at all. That got me thinking that it might be fun to post about tips and tricks to keep a story moving forward without an outline/previous planning. Of course Nano is about sitting down and writing 50k words on a first draft, not creating a masterpiece. Some of this is advice I've picked up over the years, I'm not claiming to have come up with everything here.
Lists: Lists are your friends, and it's something quick to generate ideas. You can have lists ahead of time for fall back when stuck with the draft or use them to get ideas flowing while writing. These don't have to be to detailed or to long. I've read that around 10 is a good number. You can list character traits, pet peeves, best friends, worst enemies, favorite places, favorite foods, etc. Whatever will help to get the writing moving works.
Relationships: This is something I decided to try this year, probably in a flow chart. For each of my major characters I want to identify another character or two they get along well with and character(s) they don't. If I have time I may also make a quick note about why they do or don't like the other characters. When the plot is lagging I can always have a character bump into someone they don't like then let the words flow while they deal with each other. Because ya, writing scenes with lots of conflict go faster for me than happy ones.
Cast of Characters: This one is handy no matter what level of planning is done before writing the draft. Having a list of the characters with names, gender, "role", and anything else important at a top level is useful to refer back to while writing. I'm sticking with a line or two for each character, I don't want to much on the characters list.
List of Locations: A quick list of the locations where there will be action taking place in the story. Like the cast of characters this doesn't have to be in-depth. The key facts about the places should suffice. Any further level of detail can be worked out in notes. It's actually not a bad idea to write a paragraph or two about places featured frequently in the story. Or sketch out a map/diagram.
What ifs: Related to lists, only a bit more specific. Writing down a handful of "what if" types of scenarios to have on hand for when stuck can help keep the story moving. One could look this list over and choose one based on how the story has progressed already, or one could be picked at random.
So what might I have missed? What works for you when you are stuck?
Barn Swallow Nest
14 hours ago