Tuesday, April 19, 2011

4 Tips To Fill Your Blank Pages

Stephen King says it best, “if you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot."

There really is no other way around it. All serious writers have to structure their day accordingly in order to get anything done. Whether you’re a full-time writer, a writer with a day job, or a writer with a day job and kids, you have to create a schedule that enables you to keep writing. While I personally do not believe in writer’s block, I do use these strategies to ensure I get my work done, whether it’s developing a first draft of my manuscript, outlining a novel, or brainstorming story ideas.

1. Set a realistic quota. Depending on your workload and home life, decide on an attainable number of pages or words you will write every day. For Stephen King, this means writing 2,000 words a day…no matter what. In John Grisham’s early career, he woke up at 5am every day and made it part of his schedule to write one page before starting his job as a lawyer. Grisham said that this kind of discipline was one of several “little rituals that were silly and brutal, but very important.”

2. Outline. Plan what you will write. I like to build a character list including personality and physical attributes. I also include certain gestures or words my characters tend to use. When I’m working on a novel, I outline each chapter, scene by scene. When I actually begin writing my novel, I’m much more prepared, which means less blank pages. The more I outline, the more I get attached to the world I create, and once I begin to write the story, it feels more real.

3. Read. Reading opens new worlds for us, inspires our creativity, and teaches us more about structure and story. There are characters and stories that will resonate with you more than others. These inspirations should be brought to your writing life. Reading will help us refine our writing skills.

4. Learn to say “no”. When you actually create a writing schedule, whatever it may be, you will soon discover the many distractions from…people in your life. This means you will find yourself dropping what you’re doing (writing) to help someone out that doesn’t necessarily need your help. Tell your friends and family that this is your writing time and you can get to their needs later. If this sounds selfish, it is. But if you want to be a writer and you have a day job, you have to be selfish with whatever time you have left. If you don’t guard your time, no one will.