Tag Archives: UCLA Writers Program

Not Knowing What to Write Next – Some Strategies to Try

Wish I had a beauty like this again. Photo copyright shordzi (Flickr)

Wish I had a beauty like this again. Photo copyright shordzi (Flickr)

I’m not sure if it’s lack of motivation, just not knowing where the story goes, or some other malaise – but I’ve been suffering under it lately. As I was lying awake in my bed early this morning fretting, I remembered a tip from my excellent writing teacher Claire Carmichael.

It was on the order of how to “get from here to there” – when in actuality, you DO know where the THERE is, and you might know what comes before the “here,” but you’re not grounded in what’s happening right now and have basically zero idea of how to get to THERE.

Claire envisioned this process as beads in a necklace, some of which you probably do know. Say, for instance, you’re writing a subplot about a character with cancer, and this character ultimately survives.  You know that much. You don’t want to reveal that outcome to the reader as that would negate any suspense about that part of the story. But there are things you do know, or can guess, that would be part of this.

There’s going to be a diagnosis, there will be decisions to be made and treatments to be dealt with. For a good story, things should get worse before they ultimately get better. Perhaps there’s a family meltdown over this. Perhaps there’s a bankruptcy. Perhaps there’s a wrenching, startling and totally unexpected scene about the consequences of chemotherapy. Perhaps there’s a visit by a ghost, a deity, or a demon! Perhaps there’s an incompetent medical character who tells the patient, erroneously of course, that the situation is hopeless, and all is lost.

Get the picture? Then these known stops on the way to THERE become the colored beads in our necklace, and we just need to fill in the empty spots with the lesser gems. We can write our way to THERE, as if we were fingering beads on the necklace and stopping to touch the larger ones we knew were coming.

I like to think of this as stopping for a bit of gas on the way stations along the highway on a road trip, the ones you already have circled on the map. This often helps me — hope you find it useful too!

In Memoriam: Linda Palmer

Linda Palmer

Linda Palmer

Very sad to report that one of my beloved writing teachers, Linda Palmer, died on April 21.

Linda was not just a great teacher, but a wonderful inspiration. I always thought of her as a kind of amazing renaissance woman, someone who found her bliss and along the way to that realization did a lot of really interesting things – and had a lot of fun.

She was part of Hollywood royalty, and then she was also a wildlife photographer in Africa; a passionate pet lover, and also a writer of popular mystery novels. I’ll always be grateful that she shared her love and knowledge of writing through UCLA. I remember she was an early champion of my main character “Ben” in my first book “Benediction” — when many in our class had opposite opinions. At that point I think I needed someone to say to me that “this is OK, proceed” — and Linda confidently provided that affirmation. I might have stopped otherwise.

RIP, dear Linda.

Old Clip of Linda Palmer