Thursday’s Target-A Rainbow of Sticky Notes

Yesterday, I reread Robin LaFevers post on index cards. Then I went out and bought some sticky notes. Two packs. Five colors each.

Because I’m confused.

Not from Robin’s post. From my own plot. Too confused to know what to write next. So I’m trying something that occasionally works for me, but only occasionally–going visual.

My MC has three (maybe four) possible paths. Well, in all likelihood, she’ll follow all the paths somewhere in the story. I think. At the end, though, she has to choose one. I know this. I even know WHICH path she’ll choose. I also know (darn it!) that I can’t just lay these paths out sequentially or in parallel, which is how they’re feeling in my brain right now. No, I have to weave them.

Which means I need connections. Overlaps. Characters with more than one role. Layers.

I know, these come in revision. And I’m still on the first draft. Well, actually, I’m just a bit stalled on the first draft.

I think writer’s block may actually be this kind of stall–and maybe more aptly named writer’s jam. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas. It’s not that I can’t see my MC acting, going places, talking to people. It’s that I have LOTS of ideas, lots of action, people, and places. But they’re all crowded together, like I’ve poured them into one of those cake-icing bags–the ones that narrow down to a tiny hole. And all the ideas are trying to get out that hole…at the same time.

So I’m going to play with my sticky notes today, on my whiteboard, and try to come up with some pattern that shows me what to focus on. What to pull out of the hat next. I’m going to use a different color for every scene on one of those three (four?) paths and then try to move things around. (Yes, I know I said I had 10 colors. Hey, you never know!)  Hopefully, I’ll get THE idea that lets me move forward.

What do you do when you need a “lightbulb moment”?


  1. beth says:

    OMG–I *just* had a lightbulb moment! There was a story of mine that was going no where, and I couldn’t figure out why…until I realized that what the character wants in the beginning of the story didn’t tie with how she solved the problem in the end. Now I’m contemplating a complete rewrite.

    For me, I tend to be very internal in thinking through problems. I just mull and mull over them, and eventually I figure it out.


  2. Amy G. says:

    That sounds like a neat exercise, Becky.

    For me, what works best is to stew about things for a while and maybe try some brainstorming technique, and then walk away. And I do mean walk. Somehow being in motion helps me see connections I hadn’t seen before. And usually those hold up in practice, where as the stuff I diagram on paper isn’t always so trustworthy.


    • beckylevine says:

      Amy, I try this, but something happens to my brain when I walk. If I don’t have company, it’s like a vacuum just sucks any thoughts away. Driving works for me, but then–you know–I have to worry about all those silly people on the road with me. 🙂


  3. One of my favorite writing books is Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine. She has two great exercises in the book for when you’re stumped.

    First, you have to write down 12 possibilities. You can’t stop at five or at nine, even if you go back and use one of those. It doesn’t matter if some are completely ridiculous, you write them down.

    The other thing she’ll do when she’s stuck is write down her question on a sticky note (handy for so many things, are they not?) and leave it on her screen or her desk so it’s always in her face, on her mind. It helps her come up with a solution.

    I’ve used both techniques with success. Good luck screwing in the lightbulb 🙂


    • beckylevine says:

      I started that book, Sherrie, but must not have read to the end. Those are great ideas.

      & Good luck with your lightbulbs, too!


  4. Stephen Pohl says:

    For some unknown reason, when I am working on or thinking about a non fiction article, I have on several ocassions gotten a burst of ideas while in the car driving to some family event with my twenty something year old daughter. I usually have a small flip spiral note book with me We may be talking about something completely nrelated when an idea or phrase or question comes to be. I give her the notebook and a pen and ask her to write down what I dictate, which is usally brief. She has gotten used to these strange interruptions while riding with me. I tell her that her presence is inspirational.


    • beckylevine says:

      Yay for teamwork! You may need to get one of those tiny digital recorders, in case the inspiration comes when she’s not in the car. 🙂


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