Five days in! How are we doing? Any major plot derailment yet?
9,186 / 50,000
I’m on track for now, but sometimes, it’s really hard to get going. Sometimes, you find yourself staring at a blank sheet of paper, or a blank document, and the words just won’t come. I’ve had that problem more than once, but there are a few things you can do about it.
One strategy is to just start writing. I don’t mean your novel or chapter, necessarily, but anything. Whatever comes to mind. “So here I am with this blank page, and I have no idea how to get going. I guess my characters should…” Just write whatever comes to mind. Try to write about your novel or the scene that you want to write, and at some point, you’ll come up with a snatch of description or dialogue, and go from there. A great tool for this is Write or Die, which comes out with some brilliant punishments for not writing, so give that a shot if you’re really stuck.
Start in the middle. Jump right into the action, the dialogue, the dramatic part, the part that you really want to write. Sometimes, a piece of dialogue or a specific situation jumps into my brain, and I’ve learned that it’s better to write it down just like that, even if it’s not at all clear how the situation came about or why my character said what she said. You can worry about that later, once you’ve written down what’s in your head. Make it fit later.
Start with dialogue. Doesn’t matter what, really. The last thing someone said to you, a line from TV or a movie, whatever. Someone says something, and from there, others have to reply. It may have nothing to do with your story and you might end up cutting it later, but you’ve written something. You’ve started. You have something to go from. The same works with first sentences. Try some prompt generators, pick a random image from your computer or the internet and use that as a starting point (deviantART is good for this; the front page is full of random pictures that might inspire you, or you can search by category and find something more specific), listen to some music, whatever works for you.
Act it out. Think of your character and the situation that he/she is in, and try to become them. Actors do this, too, or at least the good ones do. Become your character and act out, in your head or out loud or with your cat or whatever, what they might do and say. Let situations develop. Then write them down.
If you’ve already written something and you’re having trouble getting back into it today, read back over what you have. This will help you get back into the story, too, as well as reminding you of the characters’ motivations and thoughts and your own writing style.
Don’t finish the last scene of the day. When you’re done writing for the day, leave some loose ends. That way, the first thing you have to do the next day is finish an already-started scene. You’re not starting with a blank page. Even if it’s just a paragraph, even if you end up changing that or getting rid of it or writing something else entirely, you’re basically giving your future self a starting point.
Sometimes none of that works. Sometimes you sit there, and sit there, and the words don’t come. Write or Die is screeching at you, what you wrote yesterday is rubbish, you have no idea who your characters even are, and the prompts are all entirely wrong. If it’s like that, step back. Put away your notebook, shut down your computer, and walk away. Go for a walk, tidy up the kitchen, work in the garden, go shopping, bake a cake. Do something, anything, that doesn’t require a lot of thought, something physical. Give your brain a break and don’t worry about your word count.
In all likelihood, at some point, you’ll get a flash of inspiration. A sentence might form in your mind or your character might knock on the inside of your skull and promise to be more co-operative. You’ll feel an urge to go back and start writing. Or maybe you won’t, but when you do sit back down to write, you’ll feel better. Chances are, the words will start coming again. Sometimes, all we need is some distance and a little break. Give yourself both.
Finally, bear in mind that whatever you end up writing, however you end up starting a scene, a chapter, or your entire novel, you will probably change it. The beginning is one of the hardest parts to write, so it’s not going to be perfect the first time around. A lot of authors find it impossible to write a good beginning until they’ve written most of the story. So: no pressure. It doesn’t matter. Write whatever you want, jump right into it, don’t worry about it. You’ll come back and edit it, get rid of it entirely, write a much better start.