I want to share three particularly useful pieces of advice which have helped me when I write. Whether it’s a children’s poem, a Dungeons and Dragons adventure, or a cutscene for a game, these pieces of advice have got me to the end of a project and stopped me staring at the dreaded blank page.
(I think this blog wins the ‘worst title’ award. Anyway…)
1. Write to the start
“You’ve got to write to the start,” Rowena Roberts told me at a recent writing group.
I was complaining that I could not writing blog posts. After typing a few sentences I would give up and turn off my computer.
She pointed out that the first sentence, maybe even the first couple of sentences, maybe even the first paragraph, might not be the start of what you want to write. You have got to let the idea fully form before you can really start it. Sometimes that requires you writing a little bit before you can actually reach that point. You have to keep writing until you reach the start.
You might find that you were really trying to write a different piece all along.
A good piece of advice if: you are prone to stop writing after a couple hundred words, throw your hands up in the air and shout “It’s not working!”.
Maybe it’s not working because you haven’t reached the start yet.
2. Bird by bird
This piece of wisdom comes from writer Anne Lamott in her book on writing advice, Bird by Bird.
In her book, she talks about keeping a one-inch frame on her desk. She says that when you start writing “…all you have to do on any given day is what you can see through that one-inch picture frame”
“You don’t have to write a whole book on birds; just pick one bird.”
Start small. Then work upward. This has come in handy for me many times, on multiple projects. Keep it small. Put it together brick by brick, like Legos.
A good piece of advice if: you are easily overwhelmed by the size of a project and find it stops you from writing anything at all.
3. Write with the door closed
This one comes from Stephen King’s On Writing. He has some pretty wild ideas about writing, some which could make a beginner writer go pale, but this one I really like.
Your first draft, he suggests, should be written with the ‘door closed’. What he means by that is that the first draft is for your eyes only. It can be riddled with spelling mistakes, cliché imagery, even a whole section which is just a rant about your day. This writing is for you and you only. No one is allowed to see it, comment on it, or suggest edits.
You write this piece to the end. Before you know it, you’ve got a first draft. Then you can put it away. When you are ready, you can take it out again, edit it, and then you can open the door. This means sharing the piece with a trusted reader. Not the entire world, just that special someone who can give you good, honest edits.
This is good advice if: you are prone to comparison. You cannot finish writing anything because ‘it is not good enough’. You are scared of what others will think of your work.
Hopefully, these pieces of advice will help you get past that dreaded blank page.