You’re writing, and suddenly, you get stuck. You’ve driven yourself into a ditch.
So. What do you do? You can quit for the day. You can skip ahead to another part that isn’t so hard to write (but many times, that turns out to be just as hard, because your sullen, uncooperative mind refuses to budge).
One thing you can do:
Go for a walk.
I do that a lot, and I think a lot of other authors do, too. As I set off on my walk, I tell myself: “Don’t think about the story. Just leave it alone. Forget about it and look at the trees, the squirrels, the mountains, whatever’s there. But don’t think about the plot. Fuggetaboudit.”
Sometimes, a walk is just a walk. But more often than not, you come back already thinking of another way forward in your story—a new plot point or a new scene—something really great that just came out of left field. It materializes out of your subconscious, which was trying to help you all along.
In the case of my new Cyril Landry thriller, Spectre Black, I had run into a dead end. I couldn’t think of anything that would move the story forward. So I went for my walk and told myself not to think about it. I walked through a patch of desert and looked around, letting my mind wander to whatever drifted through my transom.
Then suddenly it came to me—completely out of left field. An idea that at first didn’t seem to fit at all. The thought I had was this, two words: “property seizure.” Very quickly, the other pieces locked into place. Cops—bad cops (and I had a few already onstage)—often seize assets, especially expensive assets, like sports cars, boats, houses, and other property. And they divvy up the spoils. One sergeant might say, “I’m looking for a Corvette.” Or something like it. And then they go out looking for a Corvette. A simple traffic stop, a small transgression, and the Corvette’s on a flatbed truck headed for the sheriff’s impound lot.
After that, like a cascading house of cards, the other pieces filled in. That one small idea was the key to a major section of Spectre Black. All because I went for a nature walk, emptied my mind, smiled up at the deep blue sky and the words waiting at the door to my subconscious poured out: “property seizure.”