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Looking at an Empty Page... What to do with Writer's Block
If you write, you know the feeling of what many call a “Writer’s Block." It's when you can't come up with any new ideas or don't know how to continue something. It’s almost anytime where you feel like your brain is out of creative juices. You feel like you have some idea in your head, but it's just behind this giant wall and you can't get to it.
Of course, there are many websites that claim that they can help solve this. Unfortunately, almost none of their techniques work. I don't know if a single person will ever read this, but writing is all about giving someone, even if it's just one person, the right words.
So now we begin.
First, we need a starting point. Our starting point is…
Try to have an idea!
Every short story, novel, or poem starts with an idea for a character(s), situation, setting, or maybe you just know what type of genre you want to write about. Maybe, at this point, you don't even have one idea. But that's okay; this is here to get you through that. What's important isn't the idea, but what you do with the idea.
Next, we need to figure out where is the story headed. To do this, we will need to figure out three different things. These things are…
Character, conflict or problem, setting (time and place)
The first and third points are essential parts of a story and are pretty obvious, but what about the second point (the conflict)? The character's problem is the engine for the story. If you don’t have a problem, the reader won’t keep reading. What is the character going to do, and how will they solve the problem? Still don’t have an idea? Just keep reading.
A STORY MUST HAVE ALL THREE POINTS!
If you just have a character, situation, or setting, then you need to take the time to figure out the other two. This is completing your idea and polishing it up. Depending on how your brain works, this process might be shorter or longer. Just keep at it; you'll get it.
Let’s say I know I want my story to happen in the late 1890’s in France. The people in my story wouldn’t have a problem with things like computers, so using that process of elimination, we can eliminate a few conflict choices. Make sure the conflict fits both the character and the setting! If you have a setting, what type of characters do you think would cause problems in that setting? Who could this story happen too? And if you just have a character, what time period would they fit in best? Would they be the problem maker or the problem fixer?
Now that we have our characters, conflict, and setting, it's time to go to the plot. If you don’t have these three things yet, I might suggest either marking this to come back to or continuing to read and remember for later.
"Oh no," I hear some of you thinking as I say the word, ‘plot’. "This is where I always mess up." I used to think the same way all the time; I would get stuck always get stuck while I was developing my plot. I didn’t know what to do, and after a while I just quit to find something easier. But the following information I'm about to give you can change your perspective on plots. Before we talk about how to get our plot down, we need to get a few facts established.
-----There are two different types of authors (as stated below).
Plotter- Like to plan out their stories in advance, and often take notes and make plot outlines.
Pantsers- Like to improvise with their story and follow in whatever direction it leads.
I'm a bit of a pantser myself, but I'm going to give step-by-step instructions for both groups of plotters.
Remember, neither type of author is better than the other, and most the of the time they end up attaining the same goals. If you don’t what type of author you are, just try out both in the form of a short story and see which one feels more natural!
FYI: I'm giving instructions for the plotters first, so if you're a pantser, you can skip down to your own part. A word of caution, though; there might be some things in the plotters instructions that a pantser could find useful in his/her writing technique. It's up to you, though.
Most plotters are the logical, level-headed authors of the world. There have been a few exceptions, but most of the time it's the logical people. Alright, enough chatting. Let's get down to business. How can plotters use their setting, conflict, and characters to help develop their plot?
1. Use the story’s conflict (your character’s problem) to get ideas for scenes. Are there certain scenes where the character clashes with a best friend? How about against a crowd of people set on destroying him/her?
2. Write down each scene idea that you think of, (if, of course, it's to your liking to begin with). Remember, you can choose which scenes you will use in your story later on, so I would suggest writing them ALL down.
3. Put the scenes in the order you think they should go in and fill out the missing places. Missing places, in this case, meaning places where you feel the action is too crowded or there needs to be a certain kind of scene, or whatever else your little writer's heart could ever desire.
4. Start ‘fleshing out’ the scenes, including the following:
-Dialogue (It doesn't have to be all conversations in a certain scene- maybe it's just a little snippet of a conversation to remind you what you want a certain character to say.
-Action (Is there a big fight? Does the boy finally kiss the girl? Write down anything you think is a little out of the ordinary, remembering you can always go back and edit later. Really, is an author ever done editing? Speaking from personal experience, I think not.
-Descriptions (maybe the castle was flying, purple, and smelled faintly of apple juice. Maybe she dyed her hair electric blue. Add any important details that you want to add to the story later on.
Helpful Tip: You don’t have to write the scenes in order when you’re thinking about them!!! Just writing them down as they pop up in your head helps speed up your thinking process; you'll find you're able to think more about what else you want from the story by doing this.
Using the technique above, you will create the ‘skeleton’ of your story.
Once you get all the scenes you want and all the dialogue, action, and details, you can begin writing. But maybe you don't want to start with scene one. Maybe you want to start with scene 27. I don't know. But remember that, just like the skeleton of the story, you don't have to start off in order. You can't start from the middle, write to the end, and go back to the beginning. It sounds stupid, but for some people it helps them write faster and keep their creative juices pumping.
Okay , onto the PANTSERS (all capitalizations for emphasis so they don’t miss it if they’re skipping over the plotters instructions). It is now time for your instruction. If you are a plotter reading this, you can choose to keep reading. It might help you like it helped some pantsers to read the plotters instructions. If you want to read more tips immediately, just scroll to the bottom. Unless you are totally blind, you should be able to find, "Tips for Everyone" in all capital letters in a moderate amount of time. If you takes you over five minutes, I suggest you call an eye-doctor as soon as possible. Here I go, rambling on again. I'll... just start the instructions, I guess. Okay, step one.
1. Get something on the page.
Yeah, yeah, I know you're thinking, "What the heck? Just put down anything? Are you nuts, you old coot? That won't work!" First, slow down. Hold your horses. There's more to what I’m saying. When I say, "Get something on the page," it should probably be relevant to whatever you're writing or want to write. How on earth will we do that, you’re wondering. Well, just read below and find out!
Techniques to get something on the page:
If you have an inkling of an idea, no idea at all, half an idea, or a whole idea you might find that free writing is a way for you to get the creative juices flowing. Just keep in mind your characters, conflict, and setting. Guide the story, but make sure to let it tell itself. Your mind's ideas are much better than your own. Let that blow your mind for a second!
-Record yourself telling the story
This is mostly for people that already have an almost completely finished or finished idea. Just start talking into any recording device (phones and cameras work) and tell your story. Make sure to speak slowly, and don't try to guide the story too much on your own. Just go with the flow; if you don't like something, you can always go back and change it. When you finish recording, write what you're saying down or type it up (another reason to talk slowly- you might have to pause repeatedly if you don't).
-Interview your characters
This is one of my personal favorites. Choose any character from your story (I would recommend the main one) and "ask" them what is going on. This can be done one of two ways; written or recorded. If you record it, you might find it is easier to "talk" to your characters, but you will have to go back and write/type it later on. Really, it's not that hard, though. It's all your choice.
Just be ready to watch as the character lays the story out in front of your very eyes. Just remember that only the best questions receive the best answers. And be prepared to go back and edit it; even if it's perfect to the world, the author can always find some flaw to fix.
TIPS FOR EVERYONE:
-You don’t need the perfect idea to get started
Really, I can name at least three well known books that started off, at the very beginning (I say this because I am in love with, and suspect that many of you are as well, the story that I’m referring too), as undeveloped ideas. But because J.K. Rowl… I mean, some totally random author, kept working at it, she was able to turn it into a book series that is read in almost every country all over the world. I’m pretty sure that most of you know who I’m talking about at this point, due to my numerous hints. J.K Rowling is an inspiration to us all. She was practically living in a ditch (not my own words, mind you) and was a single mother. That couldn’t have been easy. But she kept working on her idea. And really; where in the world would we be without the courage and never ending perseverance of our beloved J.K. Rowling.
-You don’t have to write the story in order
I think I’ve mentioned this, what, twenty times? Thirty? A few people say that writing out of order makes writing easier. I can’t say for sure whether it would help you or not, but if you don’t know and feel like it might help, go ahead and give it a try. I can’t promise it will work, though.
-Don’t go all perfectionist on your first draft- You’ll have time to fix it later
I think I might have mentioned this once or twice, but I feel like I need to do so again. An author is never done editing, right? So don’t worry about that; just go and write that story. If you want, you can write the whole story and fix everything when you’re completely finished with it. But what I prefer to do is I write a chapter on my computer not once, but twice after I print it out. I find that mistakes are easier to spot when you’re reading them on paper, not a bright screen. Either way is fine; I just feel like many of you would prefer an option.
DON’T FORGET TO FIX YOUR MISTAKES LATER!!!!
Yeah, I get that I told you many times over that you can always go back, and you can! But just don’t forget about going back!
I hope this helps you as much as it helped me! Sorry that it was a little long; there is too much important stuff that you need to know to help you out. Before I edited it, it was only two pages in my Word Document. Now, it’s six pages! The power of editing, right? Anyway, hope you enjoyed this and were able to block out some of my stupidly semi-funny comments and ramblings.