I’m sure that everyone has a writing mantra, and this is mine. When I’m writing and I come to a plot point—occasionally I stop and ask myself this question. If my plot twist sits well, I carry on. But sometimes, it just doesn’t “feel” right. I can’t explain it any better than that. There is a literal physical ‘tingling’ when I know the idea is good and conversely there is a physical ‘argh’ when I know something is just ….whatever it is….cliche…predictable…stereotypical…stupid
This is where my critique partners, writing group and beta readers come in. Often, they can diagnose the problem and help me right/write the wrong. But, lots of times I’m on my own. And I always have to rely on how it makes me feel. No one else can do this for me.
There are many names for ‘that feeling’—gut reaction, muse, inner critic, spirit—but whatever name you choose to give to your inner voice, I really believe that its quiet tutoring is the difference between an argh and a tingle. The trick is to recognize, listen and then try to capture it on paper (or computer screen.)
I suppose there are many ways to do this. I once heard of a famous writer’s wife who complained that often it’s hard to tell the difference between plotting and a nap. Stephen King takes long, solitary walks. I had a writing instructor who wrote on note cards, each representing a scene, and taped them all over his office wall. I’ve friends who swear by computer software that helps organize stories. Some writers get together and make a storyboard—plotting for them is a group effort. Frankly, I’ve never done any of these things (except for the long walks.)
It’s those ah-ha moments that bring me to my computer each morning. I never want to diminish the magic or steal the luster of those occasional really good ideas—the ones that make me tingle.