I was clustering this morning — sitting with a piece of paper and pen, and writing words inside circles and connecting them with lines, looking for correspondences and synchronicities. I found the romantic conflict in about three seconds, something that had been eluding me until now. I located the ghost’s motivations in exact detail. I discovered something huge about the villain.
And then, like a kleig light going off behind my eyes, the ending for the book erupted, a hundred times better than the one I’d previously planned, so cool and so tight and so perfect that it seems like it was there all along. It uses everything that came before, but in unexpected ways. I’m so excited I almost can’t sit still to type this. It gave me an adrenaline rush that’s still going half an hour later, and my stomach is in knots, and I’m about jumping out of my skin.
Clustering — I haven’t done an article on it, but I did a web search because it’s not my technique. I’ve modified it — I’ll do an article on my modifications eventually. But in the meantime, if you haven’t used this technique, you really need to give it a try. It can cut through the crap to fresh, sharp new material and the real meat of your story in just a few words. Here’s an example from Writing the Natural Way, and an exercise/walkthrough from University of Northern British Columbia, and a very good description and diagram in a lengthy, pretty good article about Pre-Writing.