From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New post every Monday

Monday, May 26, 2014

Yes But No And: How To Get Your Writing Unstuck

There's a rule of improv that I think I've mentioned before. There's really only one rule of improv, and it is to always say Yes, and...

I've been listening to a lot of the Writing Excuses podcast lately, and they often apply this rule to writing. With some slight expansion, this Yes But No And rule can really help when you're working on a scene and just can't figure out what comes next. Whether you're chugging along and the scene hits a dead end our your working on plotting and need to figure out what comes next, the Yes But No And Rule can help.


Let's do a couple examples. You're working on a scene: It's the middle of the night in the holding tent for circus elephants. A woman in a wedding dress runs in, looking for the map that is going to lead her to where her fiance, the Night Cartographer, has been taken. Then you get stuck. Think of the Yes/But. She finds the map (Yes), BUT the key is missing. Now you know what step she needs to take next me.

Another example. You're scene is two teenage boys at a chess tournament, and one boy has discovered that he can move the chess pieces with his mind. He gets kicked out of the tournament for cheating (No), AND the queen starts following him wherever he goes. Now you have the next conflict he has to deal with.

Basically this rule amounts to adding complication. Take whats happening and make it worse. If your character finds what they're looking for, give them something else they have to find. If something bad happens, something else bad happens too.

How would this work for the scene your working on now?

Sarah Allen

10 comments:

  1. When I start my revisions next month, I'll use that to add more depth. The story will need it!

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    1. Awesome, glad this helps! I can't recommend Writing Excuses highly enough, they have some great things to say to help all us writers keep learning.

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  2. Interesting exercise. At the moment, I'm on my first line, but I'll keep it in mind for when I'm further into it.

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    1. Coolio :) Love those first lines! Best of luck as you move forward.

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  3. Very interesting post - I'm starting a new book, and I think I will put your piece on my computer!

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    1. Oh awesome!! Like I said, if this is helpful I definitely recommend the Writing Excuses podcast. The guys on it are great!

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  4. The only bad thing about this tool is that it adds a whole lot of words, which means I have to use it sparingly in my fiction, as I write mostly flash. I've used "yes, but" more than "no, and," but I need to remember to use some of the latter (where appropriate) in some of my upcoming, longer projects. I like how this concept ties into try-fail cycles a lot.

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    1. Perfect! Adapt as needed. See, and I like that it helps me add words, because that's generally one of my problems--I write short. So this helps me expand, and figure out what's going on next.

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  5. Love it! Thanks what a great way to kick start the imagination :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

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    1. Oh good! Yeah, I'm getting some great advice from the Writing Excuses podcast, I found this bit helpful too. So I had to share :)

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