If you ask any group of authors which part of writing is the “hardest part”, I’m sure you’ll get any number of answers, ranging from picking a title to finding a publisher. In my experience as a high school English teacher, what I’ve found the hardest part of writing to be for my students is getting started.
Invariably, we’ll be in the computer lab and I see a sea of blank white screens and then the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth begin. “Mrs. Clarrrrrrrrrrrk, I don’t know what to wriiiiiiiiite about,” one student laments. “Can’t you just give me an idea?” another one begs. “This is hard!” a third complains.
And it can be.
I think what often is a stumbling block for authors (experienced or not) is forgetting that writing is, at its core, a conversation. Right now, I am talking to you. Sure, I’m doing it through my fingertips engaging with a keyboard, and you’re doing it with your eyes, not your ears–but we’re talking. You’re hearing what I’m saying.
So stop looking at that blank screen and expecting inspiration to slap you upside the head. If that’s what you’re waiting for, you’ll sit there for a long time. Instead, think about something that interests you. Relax and start talking. Tell the story.
Some Ideas For You:
A suggestion I give my students is to sit and imagine for a minute. You’re in a restaurant and there’s a couple at the table across the way. Why are they there? Are they married? Happy? Having a clandestine meeting and exchanging espionage information that you just happened to witness? Tell their story.
A good way to help give your imagination some life, believe it or not, is to play a game. I like to play The Sims. I’ve played it for years. With a game like the Sims, you can create your cast of characters and “play your story”. You can also give the characters some autonomy and see what they do. John worked hard all day. Tired and hungry, he greeted his wife with a grunt. She responded with a joke about his laziness. What happens next? Tell their story.
More than anything, it’s important not to paint yourself into a corner. When I originally wrote Don’t Ask Me to Leave in 2012, I did it for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – check it out at http://www.nanowrimo.org). Because I was in a hurry, I forced the characters to do things that didn’t feel natural because I was racing against a clock. I put the manuscript in a drawer and came back to it a few years later and I realized I’d forgotten to tell their story. I forgot to really think about having a conversation with the characters and let them guide me where they wanted to go. When I relaxed and let them tell their story, it flowed out of the pen.
So, let me encourage you to find a character you love (or, why not, one that you despise) and tell their story. I can’t wait to read it.
About Micki Clark
Micki Clark is the author of Don’t Ask Me to Leave, published in March 2017. Don’t Ask Me to Leave is a modern-day retelling of the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi, set in beautiful Montgomery County, Kentucky. Follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMickiSClark) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/MickiSClark).
Newlywed Rachel Miller has everything she could want from life—the perfect husband, her dream job, and a cute little house in the country—but the daydream is shattered when her husband is killed in a tragic accident. Her mother-in-law, Nadine, takes her in as she tries to pick up the pieces, and their handsome neighbor Beau is willing to help…if Rachel will let him. Does she dare open her heart for a second chance at love?