Let yourself be with Not Knowing. . . .
For discovery writers, this should be pretty easy, for outliners, maybe less-so. I myself struggle with Not Knowing sometimes. Not Knowing can be paralyzing for any writer. The best I can say is that you must let yourself inhabit the moment where fingers press keys or where the pen glides across the page. Let that be the only moment, an ongoing moment in which story flows through you. There are a million better things to worry about than what’s going to happen to your made-up people–they can figure it out for you if you only let them. Some of the most powerful moments I’ve encountered in my own writing have occurred when I let the story take the path it needed to take, rather than trying to force it (see also 4). As Palahniuk puts it, “it’ll be boring as hell to execute” if you know exactly where things are going.
If you need more freedom around the story, draft to draft, change the character names. Characters aren’t real, and they aren’t you. By arbitrarily changing their names, you get the distance you need to really torture a character. Or worse, delete a character, if that’s what the story really needs.
I’ve written about a related subject before. Sometimes it’s hard to get that distance from your writing, but without that latitude, you’re less likely to see major improvements in your writing from draft to draft. Remember that in the end, you have ultimate control over your characters, and you should do whatever is needed in order to make your story (or essay or epic poem) the best it can be. Of course if you’re writing an essay, there’s the matter of making everything as true as it can be, so you’d better change those names back, unless you’re using pseudonyms.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, you should be using some sort of version control from draft to draft (or even from one session of editing to another, but I think that’s a bit extreme). There are various methods for doing this. While I use it more as a way to back up and sync my writing across various computers, Dropbox also keeps older versions of your files (and allows you to restore your files to a previous version). My preferred method is to keep numbered copies of every draft, since I don’t always remember on what date I made any specific change.
There are three types of speech . . . Descriptive, Instructive, and Expressive. Descriptive: “The sun rose high…” Instructive: “Walk, don’t run…” Expressive: “Ouch!” Most fiction writers will only use one – at most, two – of these forms. So use all three. Mix them up. It’s how people talk.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll add that, as a person who hears the sounds of words in my head as I read to myself, I am drawn to natural-sounding prose. You shouldn’t be too chatty in your writing, but neither should you be too stilted. Using all three types of speech should help you maintain a good balance that makes your prose fluid and natural. As always, don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t end up using what you’ve written, but even then, you’re practicing your craft, and you might just learn something or stumble across something new and unexpected.