I'm not a writer who outlines in great detail before beginning a discovery draft. To me that's the whole point of the discovery draft--to DISCOVER. I also can't outline in advance to save my life. I might do some story boarding ahead of time and I'll have a vague, fuzzy notion of where I want to go, but that's it. New York Times bestselling mystery author Sue Grafton described it as driving through a fog--you can only see as far as the headlights.
Driving through a fog is what writing a first draft is like for me and why they tend to take several months to complete. Once I've written the whole story, I know the characters and what's going to happen and my revision process proceeds rather quickly. But as I'm excavating the plot initially, I'll often start off a scene without knowing how it'll end and the thing will stall out midway. It's like taking that three-hour tour with the Gilligan's Island gang and getting stuck on an island with nowhere to go.
I've recently discovered that instead of sweating out my writing process hoping for an idea to get things moving again, what I really need to do to jump-start the stall is to ask myself: What unexpected twist can I throw into the story that is consistent with the world and characters as I've set them up? Have I already set up an element in the book that could be used as a twist?
After watching the entire series of the TV show 24 on DVD over a fifteen-month period, I got the feeling that the writers used the same tactic. My hubs and I started playing "Name that Plot Twist" to see if we could guess how the plot might twist in each episode. Sometimes we were right; often the writers outfoxed us. The discovery draft is the perfect time to try an unexpected plot twist because the manuscript is still malleable.
So if you find yourself stuck or blocked, try doing the twist. In fact, you could get up and dance around a bit to stimulate blood flow to the brain and you could also toss the unexpected into your story. The beauty of throwing in a twist early on is that it can be edited out or changed later if it ultimately doesn't work out. But I think it's far better to keep moving forward on a piece than to let it sit for too long and grow stale.
So come on, baby, let's do the twist!