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About Writing: Don’t Start On A Blank Page

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Note:  This post is part of a series about advice for writers.  All of my advice is based on my experiences, and is offered freely in the hopes that other writers will get something out of it as well.  I highly encourage discussion; tell me your ideas, challenges, and suggestions in the comments!

2.  Don’t start on a blank page

Nothing is as daunting to a blocked writer as the Great White Void.  There are whole books on the subject, and every Nanowrimo I see posts about it all over the forums.  But the funny thing is, I very rarely find myself having this issue because of one very simple thing:  whenever I start a new document, chapter, story, or anything, I put something up at the top of the page.

When you start a new document and you’re confronted with the Void, copy/paste the last paragraph or two from your last scene at the top of the new page.  Psychologically, this gives you the impression that you are merely continuing what is already there.  It prompts you for ‘what next?’  If you don’t have anything written yet, put a question up at the top.  It can be as simple as ‘why did this character lie to her husband’ or ‘what is the crowd’s reaction to the announcement’.  Sometimes, answering a question can jumpstart your brain into writing.  Don’t stifle it.  If you start writing something other than the answer to the question, that’s fine too!  I do that a lot.  Usually I get around to answering the question hours later, after I’ve managed to write ten pages leading up to it.

The blank page makes us think too much.  When we’re faced with a wide-open space, all the possibilities come forward.  Writing a single word might commit us to a certain path, and what if it’s the wrong one?  What if we were supposed to go a different route?  What if?

Committing to a certain direction doesn’t mean you can’t go back and explore those what-ifs.  Sometimes the first direction is great, and sometimes it doesn’t work.  So what?  Move a few lines down the page and start over–now you know where you don’t want to go, and it can be easier to get your story on track.

Next post:  About Writing: Don’t Plan Out Every Single Detail

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