Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dealing with the Blank Page

On Facebook, I got this question in response to the status update that I was beginning work on the sequel to ALMOST TO DIE FOR (NAL, August 2010):

How do you motivate yourself when you're staring at a blank page? It kills me every time.

The deeply personal reply to this is that I'm actually MORE afraid of working on the novel in progress than I am of a blank page. In fact, I actually open up a new document every time I sit down to write. I do that in order to lie to myself. The lie I tell myself is that this is just a draft, it's not part of the REAL novel, and so it's okay if it sucks. Otherwise, I would be too paralyzed to write.

I also write it in Georgia font, single-space so that it "looks" like a draft and not the real document, which is in Courier, 12 pt, double-spaced standard manuscript format. The really ironic, silly part is that, when I finish the scene or however much I end up writing that day, I usual cut and paste it EXACTLY the way I wrote it.

I could probably save myself some hassle if I'd just write in the "real" document. But my brain just can't. I feel too much pressure for what I write there to be perfect, you know?

Weird, huh?

But I think the thing that's really at the heart of this question is: how do you deal with STARTING something? For me the answer is: do a lot of pre-writing. These days, I almost never start a novel that I don't have an outline/synopsis for, which means I know the basic plot point, the beginning, middle and end. When I sit down to figure those things out, I pull out my trusty notebook and start scribbling. So I hardly ever start anything with knowing, at the very least, where I INTEND it to go.

Of course, it doesn't always go where I say it will.

And, just recently, I tried starting a short story without any idea of where it was going, and guess what? It's sitting in my hard drive completely stalled out. *sigh*

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