BLANK to 50K: Getting Started

Blank to 50K(2)

The hardest part of writing is facing the blank page.

When I was a kid, I wrote all the time. My mom brought me notebooks filled with my longhand scribbles several years ago and I was amazed. As a teenager, I didn’t have trouble getting the stories started. I just put pen to paper and let the words flow. So why was it so hard for me to start writing as an adult?

Adulting is hard. Creativity is fun.

Simple. I’m an adult. I’ve lost that joyful creative streak that lets kids PLAY.

Think about it – when was the last time you let yourself play purely for the sake of playing? When did you truly let your imagination run wild?

You need to find that inner child. Bribe him or her with something fun. Let her play.

And that brings me to NOW. You want to write a book. You have the kernel of an idea. You’ve thought about your characters and your setting. You may even know some of your plot points. But you don’t know how to start. I get it. I remember getting book after book about how to write, but I didn’t “get” it. I couldn’t figure out how to actually start with a blank page and get to at least 50,000 words so I’d have the complete skeleton of a book.

That’s why I’m here. To help you get there.

So . . . how do you start?

First things first – start your routine. Once you get in a routine, you’ll actually be training your brain to write when you are ready to write. Real writers don’t wait for inspiration to write. They treat writing as a job.

Do whatever works for you. It could be where you write, what you write with, lighting a candle, drinking a particular drink, having a particular snack. I used to have a little rock that I drew a face on – I’d take him with me when I went out somewhere to write. Now I have a fairy necklace that I wear, to represent my muse.

Your Notebook

You should have a notebook dedicated to this book you are writing. Get it out now. Grab a pen that feels good to you – one that writes smoothly. (are you as obsessed with office supplies as I am?)

Open the first page. Now, pretend you’re writing to me.

  • Tell me what your book is about. This should be at least a page long.
  • Tell me about your main character. Who is she/he? What does he/she want? What is his/her greatest fear?
  • Draw a mindmap. Put your character in the middle. Then think about the individuals and events that would have had an impact on him/her, and how those things are related. Do this for your other characters, too.
  • Flip to a fresh page. What is the first thing that will happen in your book? Pretend your talking to me over a cup of coffee.
  • Flip to a fresh page. How do you want your book to end?

Okay, so, you’ve done all that?

Open up your laptop and start.

There’s no magic formula. Just start writing. Don’t worry about grammar, don’t worry about structure, just tell your character’s story. Let yourself feel what your character feels, see what your character sees.

Have a goal.

Write 3 pages a day. If you can’t get that much done, write something every day. There are days I have to force myself to sit down and write one sentence. I tell myself that – “You can write one sentence, at least.” I don’t think I’ve ever stopped at one sentence. You’ll likely do the same.

Touch base with your muse periodically.

At least once a week, pull out your notebook and simply noodle ideas. Just like at the beginning, pretend you’re talking to me. Just tell me what’s going on in your story, what is going to happen next, what problems your characters are having, what else you can do to give them a hard time.

If you’re really pressed for time, record your thoughts while you’re driving. I plotted my first book entirely by talking to myself while commuting to and from work. Every day, I would ask myself, what can go wrong on the ranch tonight? What if this happens? What if that happens?

See, you started out with a blank page and now, you’re a writer!

You can do this. I have faith in you.

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About Lori Robinett

Lori is a creative soul trapped in a paralegal’s body. As a child, she wrote pages and pages in longhand. As a teenager, she pounded away on a typewriter. As a college student, she learned about criticism (death to English Comp!). As an adult, she found her hours filled with work and parenting. Then, she rediscovered the joy of escaping into a world of her own creation. After all, it’s not illegal to write all those twisted things that pop into your head!

4 thoughts on “BLANK to 50K: Getting Started

  1. Great post. One other thing about getting started…just do it.
    Don’t worry about getting the first line right the first time.
    You’ll probably revise your opening a dozen times before you’re finished with the book. You might decide you’ve started too early in your story, or maybe, too late.
    If you can’t think of the grand, reader-capturing hook brilliant first line, then just write a paragraph summary, “Opening: John does this. Mary does that. And Mr. X is waiting for them in the alley.”
    Don’t pile on the pressure on yourself. That spectacular hook will come to you once you’re well into your story. Or revision 1. Or revision 2…….

    • Excellent point, Kathy. I often find that I end up cutting the first several pages anyway. Even if I keep them, they are revised and edited and polished later in the process. If you want to write, write! Don’t stress, don’t fret. I think that’s why National Novel Writing Month was so good for me – it allowed me to turn that Internal Editor off.

  2. I once gave a class on naming characters. A few days ago, I learned something else that needs to be considered when naming characters…
    Thought I would pass this one along….Just one more thing to think about……

    I often save my projects as PDFs and send them to my Kindle (with the command to Convert). When I’m away from home, this makes them “read” like a real book and I can still make editing notes. Last week, I turn on the audio for one and was a little upset to learn how the audio pronounced the name of my main character. It will be very difficult for a reader to recognize. Character names are hard enough to choose without additional considerations but I can see this is one I need to change. LOL

    I’ve now added that as an item on my editing list.
    • Check the audio for character names, places, etc.

    • Oh, my gosh – I had never even thought about that. I often convert my projects to .mobi so I can read the drafts on my Kindle, too, but I’d never tried the audio version. Thanks for pointing this out!

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