re: Getting Past the Blank Page

in Creative Process by

Dear Editor…

I really want to write a novel, and I have a couple of ideas, but once I sit down at the computer and try to write, I end up staring at a blank page. I’ve looked online for ideas for motivation, but nothing has worked. Suggestions?

Sincerely,
Foiled by the Blank Page

Dear Foiled by the Blank Page…

You need to get words on the page–any words–to punch through that white wall. Try this: Open a new document on your computer and type “Today I’m writing about a [man/woman/thing/whatever] who is [doing such-and-such].” Then explain why s/he’s doing that thing, then write what s/he says to the first character to come along. You’ll slip into a conversation, then a full scene. It could be a scene for the beginning of the story or something much later; not everyone writes stories linearly. In fact, that expectation could be the source of your writer’s block. You can decide where/how the story starts later. Award-winning Richard Peck once said he rewrites every book’s opening after he’s finished the entire first draft. He doesn’t know the characters when he starts a book, so how can he write the perfect opening for their story? Get words on the page so you have something to shape and develop. You can begin every writing session with this way.

Readers, what helps you get past the blank page?

Happy writing!
The Editor

7 Comments

  1. I need to know something about the character and his/her problem. Where will she come face to face with that problem? How? When? What is he feeling and thinking? What does she really want? What prevents him from getting what he wants? Then put the character in that situation and write a scene. Whether it ends up in the book or not, I learn something about who this character is.

  2. Sometimes I write a diary entry of my character’s, or a letter she writes to her best friend describing her adventures. They never go in the finished story, but they help me learn the character’s voice and get started.

  3. I have read numerous times that “free writing” for 10-15 minutes or so can help a lot when you get stuck. Just grab a few sheets of paper (writing by hand seems to work better) and literally write down everything that comes to mind: “I’m sitting here at my desk and I have no idea what to write. I was going to start at the beginning of the story, but as soon as I sat down at my laptop, my mind hit a brick wall…” That kind of thing. It helps you get some words flowing, your story-telling mind working, and you can even let out some frustration or irritation about it! Hope it helps 🙂

  4. I often skip to a part of the story in my head that I know, then work my way back filling in the blanks as I go. The story often works itself out as I go, then boom! I’ve got an opening scene!

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