What MUST happen next?


One writing heuristic I’ve found useful is to constantly ask myself, “What absolutely must happen in order to advance the story? What scene can this story absolutely not exist without?” Not, “What might happen next?” or “What could happen next?” but “What MUST happen next?”

Then I write that scene. I often feel like I’m getting ahead of myself. Isn’t that skipping a bunch of stuff? Aren’t I jumping right to the end? Won’t that turn this novel into a short story? I always feel that way but I always turn out to be wrong. The faster I advance the action, the more the momentum builds, and the more richness, depth, and conflict develops between the characters.