A friend recently emailed telling me she was a bit befuddled about what to do next on her story.
She had a could, might, must and should list. (A list of things that could happen, might happen, must happen to make the plot work, and should happen to make the plot work but might not.)
She had the heart of her story. That one-line ditty that tells you what you're writing about. (It's a story about a hero and heroine who must catch a killer but she's already been arrested for the crime and he's the DA prosecuting her.)
She had even written three chapters. But she was stuck. She wanted to know what I thought she should do next.
The truth is...if you have three chapters and a CMM&Should list, yet you still don't know what to write next, you're probably going to have to storyboard your book.
What do I mean by that?
Well, most of us get a piece of poster board (a bare wall will also do) then we write our CMM&Should scenes on individual post-it notes and put them in the order we think they should occur in the story.
There will be blanks. Because CMM&Should scenes aren't ALL the scenes. They are just our jumpstart scenes.
But, to tell you the truth, once you get all those on a storyboard in order of the way you think they should occur, if the story isn't compelling ... You've gotta start all over again.
And you can. Since your scenes are on post-its, you can yank them off and reorder them.
You can also think of other scenes. If you're writing a romance, do you have a first kiss scene? Do you have a second kiss scene? (LOL!) Do you have your black moment? Do you have an "everything changes" scene?
Every time you reorder your scenes on the wall or poster board, you should get more ideas of what could happen, what might happen, what must happen, what should happen.
Every time you do the storyboard, you might also lose a few scenes! Not all scenes will work for all versions of the story.
But you must persevere with shifting and playing with your scenes until you come up with the "version" of your story that's beyond good. It's compelling. It's great.
And then that's the story you write!