Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Please join us between Thanksgiving and New Year's when our authors present original holiday short stories. We hope they will add to the season's festivities! 11/28 Annette Dashofy, 12/3 E. B. Davis, 12/8 KM Rockwood, 12/13 Korina Moss, 12/18 Tammy Euliano, 12/23 Warren Bull, 12/28 Paula Gail Benson Have a wonderful holiday! -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Starting from Scratch

by Julie Tollefson

The revisions I’m making to my current manuscript have taken the story in unexpected directions, developments that have created holes in the storyline—huge, gaping canyons in logic and flow that leave me breathless.

The way forward is clear. I simply need to write several new scenes that bridge the gap from Ugly Draft to Not-So-Ugly Draft. I know the characters. I know what needs to happen to make the story make sense. Yet here I sit, fingers poised, and the words will not come. Faced with the blank screen, I freeze.

I’ve been in this exact same position a number of times in the past month. Once I finally start writing, the fear and the doubt fall away. But in that space between thinking about writing and writing, I can lose minutes, hours, in staring at the empty screen. Or worse, I’ll decide to pop over to check Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, just for a minute (uh-huh) while I marshal my thoughts.

It’s the polar opposite of the way I feel when I’m so far inside my story the real world feels alien. Then, when the words flow effortlessly, I resent people, real people, who dare to intrude in my fictional world and drag me back to reality.

I’ve heard other authors say that every new project feels like the first time. Daunting, with a healthy side of “I don’t know how to do this.” That’s a comfort when I feel truly stuck. Maybe this down time is my subconscious brain working out the best plot.

Or maybe I’m just a hopeless procrastinator.

Regardless, I’ve picked up a few strategies that help turn the word tap back on. The obvious—re-read previous scenes to get my head back in the story—works most of the time.

The rest of the time?

Occasionally, my brain says, “Here are some ideas, but they’re stupid, predictable, clichéd, and not very elegant.” Then, I give myself a stern talking to, a reminder that the first words on the screen can be weak or trite because I will revise them later.

And when the doubts seriously set in, I stoke my ego by re-reading previous work (“It’s not dreck! Cool!”) or feedback from others (“rich, lyrical descriptions”) to regain that “I’ve done it before, I can do it again” determination.

In the end, what it boils down to, after all is said and done, the only way forward Aww, heck, just do it already.

What are your go-to strategies when you’re stuck on a problem?


Tina said...

I do something non-brain for a while -- running, housecleaning, sometimes a movie where somebody else does the hard work of narrative-making for a while. I'm glad you articulated that "beginner's malady" is a problem that comes around with every fresh project -- makes me feel better to know I'm not alone!

KM Rockwood said...

Putting the project on the back burner for a bit can work. That's where most of my short stories get written. They are fun, self-contained and if one is really totally not-up-to-par, it can be discarded with very little loss.

The other technique I sometimes use is telling myself I just have to add 500 words to what I've got. That's not a daunting number, and if it's total dreck, it can be removed with no problem. But it usually inspires me and often moves the work in a new direction.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I walk the dogs or weed the garden. Stopping the writing process while mentally manipulating the writing situation works wonders.

I've learned not to do this when I drive.

Jim Jackson said...

Since my only deadlines are my own, when confronted with a problem, I shove it to back brain to work on and pick up some other project, or a different part of the current project, and move that forward until back brain comes up with a proposed solution. It usually does not take too long for that to happen.

Grace Topping said...

Now that I'veI completed my first (and only) manuscript and revised it 32 times, I'm staring at a blank screen not sure how to start all over again with a second one. Probably if I just start writing something, anything, I might get motivated. Instead, like you, I focus on other things.

Shari Randall said...

One jump-start for me is to switch from keyboard to pen on paper. Writing longhand seems to ignite some different part of my writing brain - sometimes!

Kait said...

Running works for me. As does taking a shower. Something about doing something else seems to open my mind to a solution to a knotty problem. The blank page of a new story or book. That is a tough one. I often power through it with part of my mind reciting the editor's mantra: I can edit anything except a blank page. Sometimes it works, sometimes the evil voice in my other ear is telling me the blank page would not be a problem if I had the slightest idea what the heck I was doing!

It's never easy, but it's always an adventure. Power on, Shari!

cv writing service said...

This is really best way to market your business as you reaches masses on internet. I am also going to share the words with others, may be someone is interested in my circle to work with you.