Today’s post is written by Drew Carson, our teen contributor.
I ran into a wall today. Two walls, actually, in two different places. One was at school (waving to a passing girl), and one was at home, on the couch, with my computer on my lap. Let me tell you, the second has been a LOT more frustrating.
So I found the root of the problem, and what do you know? It was a mental stumbling block – that annoying, peevish, and persistent inner editor, trying to tell me that my work wasn’t good enough. Well, he was wrong. Do you know why?
Because I was writing a first draft, not a final one.
If you seem to have a similar curse, consider these five tips:
1. Gain a new perspective…
You’re never going to write a perfect novel on your first go. Just get that thought nice and secured inside your head. Don’t let it discourage you, though, because Harry Potter wasn’t written in one try, either. Neither was Ender’s Game or the Lord of the Rings.
Try instead thinking of your first draft like a sculpting block. When a marble-sculptor decides to start a new project, does he quarry the finished product straight from the mountain? Of course not! He imports a huge chunk of stone and chips away at it until it looks pretty. Similarily, your finished product will probably come from a monstrous first draft. So don’t sweat it! Editing comes later.
To some of you, preparation is a scary concept. You are the people who deeply despise outlining. That’s okay – I’m not talking about outlines. The preparation I’m referring to is momentum. Gaining momentum is half the battle in writing a first draft, and you’ll be most productive if you have some.
That’s why I suggest spending five minutes free-writing before laying a finger (or cursor) on that WIP. Write anything – whatever comes off the top of your head. It could be a journal entry. It could be a back-and-forth conversation between two random characters with nothing but dialogue. As a matter of fact, I’m doing it right now. My WIP is open in another window and I’m refusing to touch it until my timer goes off. Once it does, I’ll have set a pace, and will be perfectly content to write whatever comes to mind.
If you’re anything like me, this exercise will help a lot. On Monday I did it, and wrote 1,500 words, while yesterday I forgot and couldn’t push past 500 (ughh…).
3. Cut off in the middle of a sentence…
When I first heard this one, my initial thought was, “Why in the world would I stop writing mid-sentence? I’ll forget what I was trying to say!”
If you stop writing at the end of a chapter, it’s harder to come back later and still produce words. Remember what I said about momentum?
Do yourself a favor, and write the first half-sentence of the next chapter. Maybe even one-and-a-half sentences. You’ll be amazed at how much this helps boost your creativity. Try not to worry about forgetting your train of thought – when you sit back down after a long break (and possibly some sleep), your mind will be fresh and, if anything, the sentence you finish will be better than the one you were previously thinking of.
4. Take a walk!
If you’re really stuck, physical activity can be a hero. It uses a different part of the brain, so you’ll be opening your mind up to more diverse possibilities.
The first thing I would suggest is going outside, where there is plenty of fresh air (although indoor exercise is still better than nothing). I would also suggest bringing a pocket-notebook, so that you can record any bits of inspiration that comes. Doesn’t that tree look weird? What about that rock? It almost looks like a sleeping dog… Maybe it was turned to stone by a wizard down the street.
You see what I mean?
5. Keep a quote in mind…
Writing may be tough, but plenty of people have done it. And plenty of those writers have shared bits of wisdom that may boost your morale. Search “inspirational writing quotes” on Google if you have to.
Here’s a couple I found:
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” –Agatha Christie
“When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘one word at a time.’” –Stephen King
Whatever happens, don’t let the inner editor beat you. Imagine his smug little grin when he realizes you’ve given up, and maybe that alone will convince you to keep moving!
Thoughts? Questions? Post your comments below! What helps you?