2487 miles to be exact.
I spent four days in the driver's seat. Four days away from a keyboard. Four days without a pen in my hand.
But I got a lot done.
Turns out, driving (or riding) in a car is a great way to brainstorm a plot, construct a scene, or get to know a character.
Open Road, Open Imagination
It seems that a disengaged mind is often more creative than a "focused" one. I can't tell you how many times I've labored over a scene, only to have the solution play itself out as I weeded the garden or drove my kids to activities.
In the car, unless you're making conversation, your mind can wander. I select a scene, visualize it, and "watch" it like a movie. You may be completely surprised at the twists your plot takes, or what pops out of a character's mouth (if you struggle with natural-sounding dialogue, definitely give this a try).
If you're the drive, you'll need something other than pen & paper to record these nuggets. You can get fancy, with a digital recorder, or just call yourself on you cell phone and leave a message. Gmail has a free service that transcribes all your cell phone messages and emails them to you.
What other places can you try some of this "open road" time? How about during the morning commute? While washing dishes, or sitting on a bench at the mall (any form of people-watching is great for making your characters more three-dimensional). Think of any task where it's fairly safe to let your mind wander.
But keep a notebook and pen handy. You never know just when inspiration may strike.
My best "off-road" thinking time comes as I fall asleep or wake up. My mind lets go, sliding into dreams, which is fertile ground for story writing.
But I need a little focus, or I'll end up with nonsense.
As I head to bed, I select a scene to mull over as I drift off. I watch the story play out, sometimes from different characters' points of view. In fact, I wrote part of this blog post last night in the pitch black of my bedroom at 11:42pm. I've nearly perfected the art of writing in the dark, so as not to disturb my sleeping husband.
The bonus is that I'm often still thinking about the same scene as I wake up.
The most important thing is that I must write it down. Even if I remember the idea I had, I rarely remember exactly how I phrased something, or the descriptive words that came to me. Even the most fantastic idea can be lost to sleep.
So if you're stuck, or bogged down in a boring plot, try "tripping'" you novel. You never know where you'll end up. Have you ever tried it?