BEATING WRITER'S BLOCK 1 - Dealing with panic on sitting down to write
Why do we fear the whiteness of a blank page?
For many reasons:
- Because the process of writing is mysterious.
- Because we're not sure where the ideas come from: just as an idea springs to life from nowhere, so might it disappear.
- Because we believe the process requires some powerful and untameable magic called inspiration.
However, there are proven ways to overcome page fright forever - if you're prepared to consider that writing is a task like any other, not an arcane process that requires smoke, mirrors and invoctions of the muse. Different techniques work for different writers, so keep trying until you find one that does the trick.
1 - First, take a deep breath and clear your mind. Then recall what you were going to write about when you sat down.
2 - An outline of your idea can keep you calm. Write a sentence describing the key characters and a sentence for every major plot development. If you do this even for the shortest story, it holds the material in place, like a peg that clips a dainty handkerchief to a washing line. Mind mapping can help too - in fact, creating a map of your story can be a superb way to 'inspire' yourself to add new elements
3 – Never stop to think about titles – instead use the Dickensian system. Dickens had to title his chapters not as though they would appear in a novel but for readers of serials in magazines. As a result, he tended to list all the things that were going to happen and explain how they related to what had happened before. This meant readers could instantly locate their place in the storyline and were reminded about former plotlines that he was about to develop. Here's an example for a horror story: “a short tale about a man whose life is blighted by discovering he can hear the thoughts of rats and how he learns of their lives from passing a dustbin, using the tube and eating in a posh restaurant. Wherein we discover how little regard rats have for humanity and how our hero commits suicide by eating rat poison.” If you do it like this the entire story is encapsulated in the work in progress line and you can’t forget what you were going to write.
Next time ... how to cope when your writing hits a plot impasse.