Ruminating On: Problem Popups (Writing Advice)

Something I rarely see anyone offering advice about is problem popups. These are the issues you come across in your story that make your story harder to tell. Plotters do not have this problem because they have everything figured out before they even start writing, but Pantsers face this crap on the reg. I've seen many people describing how to fix problems when they occur or offering content editing services, but I rarely see anyone tell people to ignore the issues that pop up, which you should.

 

Hang on. Stay with me. I don't want you forgetting about it. I want you to leave that stuff for the editing room. Worrying about it while you're writing is futile. It kills motivation and gives unneeded headaches. So many stories die because writers try forcing square pegs into round holes. And guess what? Most readers don't like stories that need numerous pages full of thousands of words of explanation to figure out the plot. They like it even less when a simple fix like removing it would suffice. 

 

But, I hear you asking, what happens if my plot needs the problem. Well, here you go:

 

Let's say you're tooling along with your storyline and your character does something unbearably stupid or you simply write yourself into a corner, as Pantsers are wont to do. Some authors (not all of you, so calm down) will spend the majority of their time trying to explain the issue away instead of cutting it and moving along. Then, in post, when we're killing our darlings (because no one wants to lower their word count while they're actually writing), we come across the screw up and spend a buttload of time trying to edit out all that garbage and garbage explanation because enough time has passed to where we can see it for what it actually is: garbage.

 

So here's my advice. If you find something that's causing you trouble, write around it, not through it. Do not try to explain it away or explain it at all. Treat it like it never happened and see if your story survives without it. If you suffer plot holes, go back in post and add the explanations you need. That way, there's no decrease in word count to kill your motivation, and you have all that time in editing to think about how to fix it by adding some or deleting a small chunk instead of a massive one. Work smart. Not hard.

 

I know most working authors know this. But I see folks on Twitter and Facebook dropping the old "Uh oh, I think I just wrote myself into a corner" and then losing steam. It doesn't have to be that way. You're just being stubborn. Stop being stubborn. When you finally learn to ignore issues until you reach the end of your rough draft, life becomes much easier and writing is more fun. 

 

This has been a public service announcement brought to you by the letter E.