Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank page of a [possibly] brand new composition book, feeling the gut-wrenching urge to write but instead of drafting the next great American novel, you find yourself ripping your hair out or beating your forehead on your desktop because you don’t know where to begin?
If you have ever felt this way, then let me reassure you [that] you are not alone. It happens to all of us—NOT JUST YOU! But be assured my fellow literary combatants—there are ways to overcome this.
One of the more common questions I get from aspiring authors is something that sounds like this (Don’t worry—we’re all guilty of it): I really want (or have always wanted) to write a book, but where or how do I begin?
I try to reassure each inquisitor that (first off) I am not the great and powerful Oz (hey, I like the sound of that) despite our similarities: unlike him, sitting behind the large green curtain turning knobs and spewing out his mighty words of wisdom, I on the other hand hide behind the keyboard, tucked away somewhere on the World Wide Web offering the best advice I can—with the experiences I have collected along the way.
Like each of you (or each of the inquisitors) I struggle with the same difficulties each time I hear the stirring within my soul to draft a new story. And I don’t think that will ever truly go away.
Hopefully, it never will because it’s the struggle in the end that makes it all worthwhile. That’s what sets writers apart from any other creative artist. So, what’s the best advice I can give the potential novelist? Simply this: Writers write—sometimes you just have to spend more time writing and spend (a lot) less time talking about, researching or studying the art of writing. Put the rule books away and pickup the pen and write!!!
I know that response isn’t necessarily fair because despite what other writers say when they [say] there’s no magical formula—in the end—there is. What I mean is this. Writing is a creative art-form and therefore (to honor the word art) you must understand there isn’t a strict written formula for how you should go about doing “it.”
We are supposed to be the free-thinkers of the world, the ones with the right to think “outside the box” and the creative courage to color outside the lines. You should spend more time being creative and less time trying to find a solution for becoming something you were already born to become!
I know it isn’t easy, because we are raised to believe titles are associated with accomplishments and feats. You are the CEO if the sign on your office door says so. You are the manager of the restaurant if your name tag says so, etc, etc. But those rules don’t apply to us! We are different; we view the world differently than those around us, and without us the world would be bland, plain and dull. Think about it.
The best recommendation I can offer to help you get over that hump or (as much as I hate referencing the phrase) writer’s block, is to simply bypass the rule books and write. I always begin new projects with a clean, crisp composition book—the type that cost around $2 dollars that you can get from the local pharmacy.
I find time between projects at work, on lunch breaks (75% of Proud Souls was written on lunch breaks) and let my creative self take control of the paper. I don’t stop to edit, revise or review, I simply write!
I am willing to bet that if you allowed yourself 15 minutes a day, for one week, you would be astonished to discover how many fresh new pages of raw material you could create. Multiply that amount by four weeks or even eight weeks and by-golly you are on a roll!
You are on the path to completing a short-story, novella or even a novel length manuscript. I never edit the freehand draft to any stories, I simply write. I can change topics in the middle of paragraphs, add little notes and reminders to myself or even draw a scene from a moment I am living—right while I am in the midst of it! I have that right! I am a fiction writer, just as you are.
To help break up the monotony and remind myself I am a more serious writer, I begin typing what I call the First Draft. I take my notes and begin formulating a story—answering the important questions—Who, What, When, Where and Why.
You will learn that if you write freehand during one part of the day (or week) and type that content later in the night (or week) you will begin discovering new concepts and ideals, plots and potential twists and turns for the story—and even better—you will begin discovering more and more about your characters and you can (essentially) watch them grow with each turn of the page.
I took a 4,000 word story and within (and less than) four months drafted a 67,000 word manuscript that would later become an 85,000 word novel: Proud Souls. It took two more years to see that project become a reality, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that you get past the mental roadblocks and bypass the rule books and do what you were born to do—write, think and create.
Answer the questions—who, what, when, where and why—captivate the senses and in the end, tell a good story. I believe that if you set your mind free and allow your more creative side to take control (tell the editor in you to take a nap or something), in the end you will be impressed and one day hide behind your keyboard like the great and powerful Oz and answer the question: Where do I begin?
Best of luck to you this year…and remember…I believe, because you believe!