So I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. I'd gotten to where I believed all I had was little scraps and piles and lists of research notes and facts and dates, and no story. I thought if I could force myself to pound out a first draft, however thin, however awful, it would ground me in my story again. The first day (yesterday) I wrote a bit on a couple of scenes and hit my target and it was ok.
I'd had some advice from Diana Gabaldon on the Books and Writers Community boards about what was important and what wasn't, and she told me about how to write with brackets. The short version is that it's the characters and the story that are important, not the ticky historical details (at this stage, anyway) and whenever you come to something you haven't covered in your research yet (like what street Bill walks down--or up, I don't know the answer to that yet, either--to get to Fannie's house) you use brackets. Doing that, I wrote some very rough first-draft stuff. It comes with lots of brackets, but I wrote it.
Today, I got up thinking I would write on thus and such a scene tonight, but somehow over the course of the day managed to convince myself again that I don't have anything to say. Which is exactly where I was this past weekend before Diana wrote me that post, God bless her. She is so generous with her time over there, and talks to ridiculously inexperienced newbies like myself as kindly and respectfully as she does anyone else on the boards.
But I digress.
By the time I got home, I had come to the conclusion that there was one thing that I knew positively, absolutely had to get into the book sooner or later. I can dither over what battles to put in and which ones to tell as flashbacks or to have Bill rehash in conversation versus which ones to tell in 'real time' and never write a word. But Fannie has to get pregnant: It's the core event of the whole book. In order for that to happen, obviously, she and Bill have to have sex. Once that's happened, she'll have to realize it, and then she will have to tell Bill about it. So there's three scenes I could work on tonight, no need to dither about whether or where they go in, and I told myself that I could use the bracket trick ("He began undoing her [ ]") to fill in all my vast areas of ignorance, like exactly what women wore back then and how they fastened.
And I did! Before I knew it, I'd overshot my day's target by 319 words.