No one said writing was going to be easy. We choose this life because we can’t help ourselves; certainly no one decides to be a writer for the immense riches it offers. Sure, there are immense riches, but they’re not common.

So, you’re writing a story and it’s not heading where you want it to go. Whether a Pantser or a Plotter (or a Plantser), writing a story is like steering the goddamn Titanic in an asteroid belt—that is, not easy. After a certain point trying to nudge your plot back in the direction you want is like leaning against a mountain—it has no effect. You’re heading towards a brick wall and getting bored with your own story.

In these moments, I like to pull a Truck Driver’s Gear Change.

Watching the Clutch Sail Through the Air

What’s a Truck Driver’s Gear Change? In music, it’s when you suddenly modulate a song up into a new key. One famous example is Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson; at the end of the song everyone just soars up out of nowhere. It’s either a genius move or a cheap ploy to keep listener’s attention in a repetitive song.

In writing, it’s a sudden left turn. In my book The Unconventional Novelist, I talk about a Crazy Ivan, which is the same sort of concept but in more of a plotting sense. For Pantsers, a Truck Driver’s Gear Change can be dropped into any story. Say you’re writing a romantic story about a young couple on a first date. It’s sweet and lyrical, but whatever you initial goal for the story it’s getting boring. A Truck Driver’s Gear Change would be to suddenly have them attacked by werewolves, or aliens. A hard turn into a totally different genre, tone, and concept.

It’s saved several stories for me. The initial stuff remains as strong background and foundational material, supporting the sudden shift. It doesn’t always work, but if your story is dying right in front of you anyway, it’s often exactly the reckless move you need to save it from being a complete failure. Try it! It’s fun.

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