I was inspired to write this post having spent time with my lovely writing friend Nancy (to whom Kissing Mr Wrong is dedicated). I've been struggling a bit with the current WIP and outlined the story to her. Two hours later, and I was fired up with ideas which filled five pages of notes just from having to explain the story to her and say where I thought the holes, blockages and other problems were.
Nancy is brilliant to talk it through with because she never projects herself into my story. She asks questions like, 'What if X is a teacher?' and leaves it there. She doesn't launch into 'What if X is a teacher, and then they could do this, and then that could happen, and then this new character could turn up and then...'
Nancy says things like, 'Y seems to have 5 problems. Do you need all of them?' She doesn't say, 'Y has too many problems. You should get rid of that one, and then that would mean you could concentrate on this one which is much more interesting.'
Even better, when we've been talking and I say suddenly something like, 'Oh, a solution's just occurred to me, ' she doesn't say, 'What is it?' but hands me over a pen and paper so I can write it down before I forget.
I should have known the value of talking it through from my Royal Literary Fund role, working with students on their essays. Often, when a student is confused, I just ask them to tell me what they want to say. They do it, and realise they're not confused after all. They actually know all the solutions to their problems themselves. I believe it's the same with counselling - you know the answers to your own problems, it's just a question of accessing them and a trained counsellor can facilitate that.
Talking it through solves a lot of story problems, so long as you talk to the right person. I hope you can find a writing friend who is as helpful as my friend Nancy is to me. I hope I am as helpful to my friend Nancy when it's her turn to talk, and my turn to listen.