The lined face is staring up at you, blank, waiting. You're staring down at it, hands clenched. Your mind has frozen, the words have fled. The lined face is laughing at you, mocking you for your failure, your inability to...
Okay, we're over-reacting, but if you find yourself wanting to write but not knowing how to start, there are things you can do!
I picked this up in a writing class (and I'm going to talk about the importance of chatting with other writers in a later post) run by a lovely lady called Jane. Anyway, free writing is a brief exercise to get yourself in the mood.
- Get yourself paper (scrappy, not your best book) and a pen. Don't use a computer.
- Time yourself for 3 minutes
- Start with the words “I am writing” then write whatever comes into your mind. Don't edit, don't correct your spelling, don't use punctuation. Just write non-stop for three minutes.
Write whatever comes into your head, no matter how random, personal or award-winning it may be. Your writing can be a complete scribble – no one ever has to read this, not even you. I can't read half my free writing because it's such a scrawl. The idea is the physical act of writing will settle your mind into Writing Mode. Scribbling down your thoughts for three minutes could also get the ideas flowing!
Don't Start At The Beginning
I specialise in writing out of order (hence the contents lists!), and all the time you hear writers quitting before they begin because they can't think of how to start. Take the pressure off yourself and start with the middle, or even the end. If you've got the most amazing court scene in your head but you don't know how to get to it, write it first and go from there. If that's not working, start with a simple character-building scene or create the location. Just write something pertaining to your main idea. Even if you scrap it later on, at least you've made a start and have a sense of the story you're writing.
You may have to force yourself at first, but get into the habit of writing daily. It doesn't even have to be fiction. Keep a journal. Write a review for something you love. Join a forum. Start a blog! Just make sure you're writing every day to keep yourself in the habit. You don't necessarily have to share it, but make sure you're doing it!
Here are some suggestions. Do whatever works best for you!
Believe in Yourself
Yeah, it's cheesy but it's true. A lot of people never write because they think it's pointless or they think they're not good enough or they're worried they can't translate the idea in their head onto the paper in front of them. I'm here to say WRITE NO MATTER WHAT.
You don't have to be the next award-winning writer. In fact, you'll free yourself creatively if you don't aim to be the next giant of the high-class literary world. Write because you want to, you love to, and it's fun to do. Don't write expecting to get published, just hope for it if that's what you want. When I was younger, I used to plan when and how I was going to become a full-time author. I was naïve. It doesn't happen like that. You'll have to fit your writing around the rest of your life. If you're dedicated, it can be done, even if you scribble something basic down on your fifteen-minute break at work. I can't say it enough – write primarily because you love it. Everything else comes second.
If you're a busy person, don't give yourself unrealistic targets like 4000 words a day. Start small and build up. For the majority of us, the first story we write won't be the one we get published (another subject I'll expand on one of these days). You've got to practice. You've got to write, write, write, write, write, write, write and write some more. The more you do it, the better you'll get at it.
Don't worry if you don't finish a story – put it to one side and save it for another day. I've returned to ideas years after I first had them. Sometimes, something needs to be put on a slow boil. Don't be disheartened. And if one idea dies because another has replaced it, go with the new idea and work on it while it's fresh and you're enthusiastic. Never force yourself – writing has got to be FUN!
|Relax with tea and a couple of Custard Creams for dunking. BUT THEN YOU STOP DRINKING AND START WRITING!|
Well, that's me done for another post. I'm going to talk about the importance of getting in touch with other writers next time. I think it's really important to stay connected with people who share your passion and it's perfect for getting a feel for the basics.
(PS, personal novel word-count: 48179 and counting!)