It’s been a few days, but between trying to figure out which IRS forms to send in so people don’t end up withholding 30% of my money and doing one final edit of my book, it’s been a busy week.
Well then, shall we continue? Last time I went over finding those lumpy iron ideas and the best way to not turn them into reverse centaurs. If that sounds confusing, I’d advise reading the previous post—it makes things a little bit clearer.
Now, you’re approaching one of the pitfalls that has claimed the careers of many a would be author, the blank page. You’ve got a the world, the characters, where they’re going in the most general sense, but you just don’t quite know how to start the story—you can’t find that perfect line to draw your reader into the world. You’re not alone, that first blank page can be a pain. Sometimes you have the most perfect idea for the story, but you just don’t quite know where it starts. If you get into this rut, and stay there, you’re never going to end up writing a book, you’ll just sit there forever and slowly die inside until you storm away to drown your rage in coffee and snickerdoodles. This, unfortunately, happens to a fair number of people, especially in the middle of their novel, where it is known as writer’s block. Maybe you have two great ideas and just don’t know quite how to connect them where it counts; this has happened to me more than a few times. The upside, however, is that there is an easy workaround—so easy you’ve already dismissed it as impossible. The fix is that you need to just start writing. “But!” you exclaim. “How can I write if I can’t figure out what to write?” Don’t worry about that, just start writing something akin to what you want. You can fix things up later when you’re editing, or maybe even tomorrow when you have a brilliant flash of insight. Maybe the stuff you’ll start putting down turns out to be so good that it takes over the chapter and spins your characters off in different direction. The trick is just to keep writing; if you get stuck then it’s on you and only you to get past it. There’s no magic muse, no amount of breaks, no super secret writer power that’ll get you through—you just need to push through on your own.
There are ways to help avoid falling into the trap of being stuck with no idea of where to go next. The first, I find, is to have a place where you can write without distractions. Now, what each person finds distracting is different from what almost anyone else would consider a distraction. I for instance, almost need to listen to music when I write and work. If I don’t, I find that my brain wanders off and I end up in the kitchen searching for something to eat, or that I’ve picked up a book and have started reading it. Music where you can ignore most of the vocals, I find, is the best. If it’s lyrically or vocally driven, you very well might just end up writing what you’re listening to, or it’ll become so distracting that you can’t focus on your own speech anymore. For others, they need absolute silence—no music, no noises, a total void where they can sit and clickity-clack away at their keyboard.
Now, being spoken to is one of the few universally accepted things that will break your writing focus. I’ve written through fire engines across the street, construction crews outside, heavy-metal music blasting from my speakers, and near starvation levels of hunger (it was an exciting part and I wanted to finish the chapter). But, if anyone were to come up and say “Hey, how’s it going?” I’d derail worse than a train without tracks. Also, I find once you’ve fallen out of that writing zone, it takes a little while to get back in. I am aware that there are some people who can nitpick, fiddle, write, and edit in small bursts when they’re driving around, taking care of their kids, or otherwise paying attention to something else, but that’s not me. I, and I’m sure many others, need that space where you can block out any incoming distractions and just get to work.
Sometimes it can be hard to create that space. I, for instance, live in a one bedroom apartment with my girlfriend. When she’s home, there can be a want to talk to one another and interact. There isn’t much room to carve out a separate office, but, honestly, a pair of noise canceling headphones and your favorite music do just about the same thing. I’d assume this would have the same effect if you were dealing with noisy siblings or children as well. Create that writing space for you; it doesn’t need to be big, but it does need to exist.
That should be quite enough of a post for today. I’m actually rather on a roll with this, and so instead of posting one enormous wall of text, I’ll have another one up for you tomorrow. It will explore a bit more into the way that I, and possibly you, can better track your world and how to get the most organic plot to emerge from your writing.