Qualifying “Just Write the Next Sentence”

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Qualifying “Just Write the Next Sentence”
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“You know, everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.” Will Rogers

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

Topic: Qualifying “Just Write the Next Sentence”

Surprise! This is not a repeat.

As a test, I wasn’t going to post today, but I had a question, and I felt it was too important to put off (and maybe forget). So I’ll plan to not post anything tomorrow as a test.

A day or two ago in this space, I wrote (as I’ve written often in this Journal) that if you get “stuck” partway through a story, the best approach is to just write the next sentence, then the next and the next. Soon the story will be flowing again. Even as overly simple as that sounds, it is true.

But my conscience dictates that I qualify that advice slightly.

The method works, absolutely—if you’ve written into the dark up to the point where you feel “stuck.” If you’re working from an outline or otherwise planning In Any Way, then you’ll probably have to follow your own lead and dig yourself out of the muck the same way you dug yourself into it. (grin)

But obviously I’m not writing all this for plotters and planners and candlestick makers. I’m writing it for those who Most Often trust their characters to tell the story that they, not the writer, are living.

If you let your guard down and allow your always-negative, conscious, critical mind to move the story in any direction at all, when the story begins to slow and you feel it’s bogging down, chances are it is.

The direction you took as a result of “thinking” about the story is a false direction as far as the characters are concerned because it was predetermined and forced on them.

After all, they don’t know in advance what will happen next in their story anymore than you know what will happen next in yours. And by “yours,” I mean the one you are living, sitting there at your keyboard.

So when something is predetermined—when your conscious, critical mind forces a new direction on your characters and all at once they know what’s coming—they recognize a skunk in the works and that the new direction isn’t part of the story they’re Just Living as they go about their lives.

So as long as you force them to put up with it, they’ll trudge through their paces like good little characters. But their arms will be crossed over their chest and they’ll drag their feet, making the story feel slow or bogged down. And chances are, they’ll also be muttering something I promise you would rather not hear.

To correct this problem, first, be sure it IS a problem. Be sure the slowing is due to interference by the critical mind.

To do that, ask yourself this, and be honest: Did the story move in the new direction as a result of anything negative in you, such as fear or uncertainty about where it was going?

If your answer is yes or maybe or anything other than a firm NO, the new direction came from your critcal mind.

And just so you know, despite my use of kid gloves in the previous paragraph (Did the story move in the new direction…) honesty does count: The story didn’t “move in a new direction” of its own accord. YOU intentionally moved the story in a new direction. And anything YOU do to a story is author overreach. Get out of the story, and stay out. (grin)

That said and done, now you have to fix it. And to do that, you have to find where you turned the story in the wrong direction. Follow these steps:

Method One—

1. Being brutally honest once again, chances are you won’t have to look far. Chances are you already know what the wrong direction is and even when and where it happened. In that case, I suggest you teach your critical mind a lesson:

2. Go back to the place where you intentionally turned the story and delete everything from there forward. Just trash it. Seriously, toss it out. They’re only words, my friends. Words to a writer are like nails to a carpenter. If one is bent, toss it out and get another one.

3. Take a break. Go get a cuppa or a glass of water or something.

4. When you come back to the newly shortened novel, read through it from the beginning. When you get to the white space, Just Write the Next Sentence—whatever comes—then the next and the next and so on.

Method Two—

1. If you honestly don’t know where the story went wrong, go all the way back to the opening sentence and read Just as a Reader. Read as quickly as you can. When you get to the place where the story turns unnaturally, meaning in a way the characters themselves didn’t intend, it should pop out at you. In that case

2. See 2, 3, and 4 above.

After all of that, keep your guard up. Don’t allow the critical mind to creep its way in again. Trust your characters. Be true to them and they’ll tell you some excellent stories.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Marketing and Branding Books Quiz: Why Isn’t My Title Selling?” at https://www.amarketingexpert.com/2022/10/18/marketing-and-branding-books-quiz-why-isnt-my-title-selling/. I got tired just reading the quiz. (grin)

See “Doing Good Radio” at https://killzoneblog.com/2022/10/doing-good-radio.html.

See “Top 10 AI Marketing Tools…” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/top-10-ai-marketing-tools-you-should-use/.

See “Maria Pallante, Copyright Crusader” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/maria-pallante-copyright-crusader/.

See “Where’s Wendig?…” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/wheres-wendig-wayward-wanderings-a-wendig-in-the-wild-book-tour/. See PG’s take.

See “9 Negative Character Arcs in the Enneagram” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/9-negative-character-arcs-in-the-enneagram/. Maybe interesting.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 960 words

Writing of The Stirchians (novel, tentative title)

Day 1…… 4106 words. Total words to date…… 4106
Day 2…… 3505 words. Total words to date…… 7611
Day 3…… 2392 words. Total words to date…… 10366
Day 4…… 3336 words. Total words to date…… 13339
Day 5…… 3227 words. Total words to date…… 16566
Day 6…… 2821 words. Total words to date…… 19387
Day 7…… 2900 words. Total words to date…… 22287
Day 8…… 1288 words. Total words to date…… 23575

Total fiction words for October……… 31777
Total fiction words for the year………… 152159
Total nonfiction words for October… 13590
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 166810
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 318969

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2022 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2022 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 68
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this Journal, among many other things, I illustrate a Zen-like non-process called Writing Into the Dark and what is possible when you trust the characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. WITD also leads to greatly increase productivity and a rapid ascension along the learning curve because you get a great deal more Practice. This is not opinion. It is all numbers and facts.

2 thoughts on “Qualifying “Just Write the Next Sentence””

  1. Thank you for this clarification! I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “Just write the next sentence,” only to be met with a mental wail of, “But I don’t KNOW what the next sentence should be!”

    Dropping back to figure out where my ICBM (Inner Critical B****y Meddler) forced the story off course, deleting, and then writing the next sentence makes so much more sense!

    • Sometimes that’s what it takes. But the point is, if we’ve allowed our critical mind to alter things, we usually know it. (grin)

      In a way, this is just like when you write past the end of a scene or chapter (or story). The writing suddenly slogs down and there is no more “next line” to write. Scroll back and read a little, and usually the end you flashed past will be apparent. This happens to me occasionally with scenes or chapters. Once you find the end, it’s a freeing feeling to start the next scene.

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