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.

Save

How to Write a Novel: The First Draft

Blank to 50K(1)I’ve been writing for a long time – semi-seriously for over 10 years. I spent years on the first draft of my first novel. And it’s still not finished. So, how did I break through and finally FINISH a first draft?

  • Recognize that a first draft is an imperfect grouping of words, sentences, paragraphs. It is perfectly simply because it exists. It’s not supposed to be perfect.
  • Declare your intentions. You need to be accountable. You don’t have to tell the world, but tell a good friend. And have them check your progress.
  • Decide what method to use. There’s the snowflake method, or Holly Lisle’s index card method, or you can just fly by the seat of your pants. It doesn’t matter what you use this time. This time is all about learning and experience. If it works, use it again. If it doesn’t work, try something else next time.
  • Treat writing as exercise. Writing is like a muscle. Do it daily, and it will get easier.
  • Start. You can sit and think forever, but that doesn’t get that first draft written. You have to actually sit your butt in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard and type.
  • Slog through. The middle is mucky. You’ll get stuck, the forward movement will be slow. Just keep going.
  • Finish. Find a way to wrap things up. It doesn’t have to be the perfect ending. You’ll polish it later.
  • Finally, put it away. Give the draft time to percolate and let yourself get some distance before you go back to revise. And celebrate. You did what very few people actually do.