I have heard from other writers that the crucial question
to keep a story moving along is “What’s Next?” When an author hits a “dry spell” or an
“author’s block” the “What’s Next?” question is supposedly a way to drive toward the next
words or the next story events. I find this question does not work for me as a device that stimulates my writing creativity
but that it is a useful tool in my writer’s craft for choosing writing topics, projects, and publications.
In my own work the creative process is a development process, but one set of situations
flows into another as I move the writing forward. I do not ask “What’s Next?” because the momentum of the
ideas and characters in a story or book move the writing forward and this question would interrupt the natural forward flow
of the plot as it unfolds. “What’s Next?” is an artificial stop that signifies the story or novel could
not carry forward from what I have already penned. To me, this either means that the story or book should finish at that point
or that I did not have enough fabric in the writing material to proceed.
choosing my next writing endeavors, however, I do benefit from this question. Before I begin writing, I have to decide on
an idea or characters to write about. Sometimes story ideas or writing project commitments occur while I am in the middle
of writing something else. I tend to jot relevant notes for the next writing ideas on pieces of paper and collect any stray
thoughts on my computer for future use. However, I typically will not start two similar types of writing endeavors at the
same time. (For example: I might work on a book and a short story at the same time but I will not work on writing two books
or two short stories at once.)
I have written two fiction novellas and
a book of short stories. When I finished “The Dream of Keriye” I decided to take a year or two and focus on a
non-fiction book “TEAM(work)” based on my business background and experiences in industries in Technical Writing
over the last ten years. Right now, I am half finished with “TEAM(work)” and I have already decided to write a
third novella for the character of Kervila Cramer. My “What’s Next?” question is already answered
for the time being.
“What’s Next?” can be a beneficial
question. I just do not believe it to be a wise tool for developing writing. However, as a reader I do know that “What’s
Next?” can be a good reason to keep turning the pages. When there is a lull in the life of a writer where the
next writing endeavors are not immediately apparent, sometimes writers need to remove themselves from the pages and walk a
bit harder in life’s patterns. “What’s Next?” can be as simple as tomorrow comes and the pages will
return after we live today.
- Kimberly A. McKenzie