Writing Lessons 6

So you are sitting at your chosen location, your desk, your kitchen table, your spare bedroom – wherever it may be. You have your pen, pencil, paper pad, laptop or desktop computer, and you have some quiet music playing to tempt you into your best writing mood. You have been thinking about the next scene you’re going to write. You have your character, your basic scene. 

And you have that blasted blank page in front of you! It’s horribly empty! How on earth do you start to fill the page?

No, you don’t go on social media or start “researching” things on Ebay and Amazon. The main thing here is to stay motivated.

And it is astonishingly hard to do that. Because the way that the writer’s mind works is by seeking and finding distractions. You are creative and, believe me, a writer can put a huge amount of creativity into avoiding work!

How many authors sit down and discover that they really need a cup of tea? Or coffee? Or a visit to the toilet? Or that they really ought to go and walk the dog, wash the floor, make a loaf of bread (that’s my personal favourite) or … well, the list is endless. 

My own rule is, I make a cup of something before I sit down, and while the kettle is boiling I write down a couple of elements I need in the next scenes, or even things that I need to include in the story, full stop. Then, when I sit down I have a fresh set of items I have to write. They are usually bullet points written in my Midori notebook, because that is with me all the time, awake and asleep, when I’m writing books. I can take it out and review stages of my writing in that way, which is very useful later when I am editing.

Playing the same music as I was listening to the previous night will help, as will reading through the work I did yesterday, because both work to bring my mindset into the right place, but if you have nothing from yesterday, if you are just embarking on this (bloody) book, what do you do then? 

First, prepare: as I say above, make sure that everything needed is on your desk already. Getting up to fetch something is one distraction you need to do without. I know it sounds obvious, but just make sure you have your cup of tea/coffee, a notepad and pencil or pen just in case, and your main writing device, no matter what it is. If you have a reason to get up, no matter how invalid, you will get up. And then you’ll discover you’ve already lost ten minutes of your precious writing time.

Second, present: this means to me simply grabbing my pen or putting my fingers on the keyboard. The simple fact of putting my hands in the right place to begin seems to unlock my creative flow. As soon as the two forefingers hit the lumps on the “f” and “j” keys, I start to feel my mind working again. Present your hands to the writing tools you are using and you will find things easier. If you sit with your hands in your lap while you stare out through the window, you have a block in the way of writing. Instead, sit with your hands on the keyboard and close your eyes. Imagine your scene. Then it’s a short step to starting to type. Likewise, if you have your pen in your hand, it’s a short move to actually writing. 

Third, precipitate: by which I mean, make things to happen. You have a character in mind, so use him or her. If you’re lucky, you already have an opening scene that appeals to you. Your character is in his/her car, is in a car park, and witnesses an assassination. Who is assassinated? They don’t know, but how do they feel about that horrific attack. What exactly do they see. What is the sight-line, is it between vehicles? Is it over the top of some cars, or is it straight down the exit or entranceway to the car park? Is it a supermarket? 

Don’t worry about exactly what happens: just write. Write what the weather is like, describe the smell of the sun on the tarmac, or if it’s wet, how does the tarmac smell? Think how you feel when the sun comes out just after a rainstorm, when you get that odour of fresh mud and oil, and consider how your character will feel about it? Was the man/woman used to the sight of blood? Did they have a course on first aid that sends them on to help the injured person? Are they into drugs, and automatically think that they could get some money from the body?

I remember once reading that in order to be successful, first you have to expose yourself to the risk of success. It was a motivational piece on overcoming failure, and it was quite apposite – the main thing here being, if you want to be known as a writer, first you have to write something. 

The beauty is, you are not writing about yourself, you are writing from someone else’s perspective. 

If you can do this, soon you will hopefully have about three pages written. Three pages of typed text is about one thousand words, which for me is about a scene.

And now, when you return tomorrow, you have something to start reading that will launch you on the next day’s writing. 

Best of luck!

3 Responses to “Writing Lessons 6”
  1. Lindsey Russell says:

    I assume your wife is used to you snapping on the light in the middle of the night to snatch up your notepad and pen to scribble something down? :-)


  2. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    More advice on writing from Michael Jecks ;)


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