How Waiting to Get to the Good Stuff Can Pay Off

NaNoWriMo update: we’re at the halfway mark, and I am well beyond 25K, with a current total word count of 27,312. While I’m keeping up my novel writing, getting ready for Thanksgiving is beginning to cut into my blogging time. That, and my brain doesn’t seem to have any words for writing beyond those I need to tell M.T.’s story. But I promised myself I’d post today, so here it is.
One piece of advice that I’ve often read is to cut to the chase while writing a draft. Jump straight to the stuff that’s exciting to write, even if there are lots of things that need explaining before the reader gets there. The boring stuff can be added later, and if you’re really lucky, you may not have to add it at all. Writing the exciting stuff is especially helpful if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo because putting your time in where you have the most passion is likely to produce lots of words as well as be the most fun.

I used this advice last year, when I was slogging along with my adventure. I had a prince and a princess searching unsuccessfully for each other, and while I knew they needed to go through a lot before they finally met, I ran out of ideas and patience long before they had suffered enough. So I stopped waiting and jumped ahead, putting them both in the same place at last while ignoring little details like how they got there and what happened in between. All sorts of exciting things came from writing that moment, resulting in energy, new ideas, and enough words to get me to 50K before the month ran out.

When I had the idea of involving M.T.’s weird roommate in an artnapping, I was tempted to jump right to the police searching Poe’s room and finding the painting. Her arrest would be a big dramatic moment, and cause plenty of trouble for M.T.

But I didn’t do that. I was afraid that the arrest might turn out to be my novel’s climax, mainly because I don’t have any other big crisis scenes planned at the moment. (OK, you got me. I don’t have anything planned at all. But I do keep trying.) Since I was afraid to squander the coming drama, I promised myself I would only write scenes that upped the ante. My goal was to maximize the impact of the arrest on M.T. by increasing her anxiety about the rent.

I started with a strange conversation between M.T. and Poe about the theft as foreshadowing that Poe might be involved. Then I forced M.T. to have a lunch with her mother. Their discussion makes M.T. wonder if Poe will be able to pay her share of the rent. Her mother also reminds her what will happen if Poe can’t pay; M.T. will have to move back in with her parents, a situation she wants to avoid at all costs. As a result, M.T. starts spying on Poe to make sure she really does have a job. She is led to believe that Poe lied about where she works and is frantic at the thought her roommate is actually unemployed.

Of course, Poe does have a job, and when she realizes M.T. has been stalking her, there will be a fight. While they may not be on the best of terms afterwards, M.T. will at least know that they can cover the rent. Of course, the police will arrest Poe before she can write her rent check, and M.T. will be digging through the sofa for loose change while Poe’s pet monkey is trashing the apartment.

Making myself work towards my big scene is paying off in spades. Not only is it generating some great scenes and unexpected surprises, but I’m even more excited about writing the arrest scene than I was before. I could have jumped ahead, but I think when I get there (probably in another day or so), Poe’s arrest is going to be much more powerful than I thought. And with luck, it will help me to figure out what happens next.

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