Last week, I attended the MuseOnline Writers Conference.
This is a totally free, totally online and totally awesome conference, and my favorite thing to do there is take Devon Ellington's classes. Her exercises are basically the same each year: specific writing challenges that push some writing skill. They're the same each year, but I always go in with a plan to use them on a specific project and always come out with something great. This year, I used her storybuilding class to write a story about Grace and Coyote that I'd been meaning to do for awhile. (Love Coyote--he's so fun to write!) I used her dialog workshop to build on Discovery.
As you know, I've been having a lot of trouble writing this book. It's "done" as far as word count, but there are holes and logical inconsistencies and not enough character development. One thing in the back half that I've struggled with is the finding reasons why certain people can't be at x or y at a critical time.
One exercise that really challenged me this year was the "multi-task" exercise. The protagonist has to do something while talking, it has to be important, and things have to keep getting in her way. Of course, I'm trying to build up the front half of Discovery, but I didn't have anything to for my characters to do that hadn't already been done. So I decided to let Rita check the rover they needed for the mission.
By the time I was done, she discovered the rover had been sabotaged! It was wonderful! It gave me the perfect reason to leave people safely on ET while a small team (including, unbeknownst to them, the saboteur) goes to the Discovery on an urgent mission and gets in serious trouble.
So today's lesson: take advantage of workshops or writing exercises, and when you have a problem in your story, sometimes it helps to attack it obliquely.