Write well. Write often. Edit wisely.
A lot of you are writing today. At least you’re trying to. You’re feverishly putting out word counts for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Or maybe you have a school project due soon.
Or maybe, just maybe, you’re making your first attempt at long fiction or a short story.
You always said you’d do it, that you’d write a book, tell that story that’s been nagging at you for years.
You know you can do it. Heck, you’ve got a series in you, you’ve got so many plots and characters running around your mind. Of course you can write a book.
Okay . . . now is that time.
Lots of people are writing today. Some are professionals. Some are first-timers. Some are making a third or fourth or fifth attempt at a novel. But many are writing.
You’re not alone.
I’m here to say yes, you can do it, you can write that story. You can finish that school project. You can win at NaNoWriMo.
The words are in you. The emotion is waiting to be released. Your characters are at the starting line, waiting for the sound of the gun.
You can tell a story; I know you can.
This is a simple article, not one filled with a lot of how-tos, but I wanted to remind you that you’re not alone, not even if you feel that no one is pulling for you. You need to hear that. Know it. Know that the thousands who’ve gone before you, who sat down with pen and paper or with keyboard and monitor, are on your side.
Yes, writers compete for readers. But when we’re talking the writing part, the crafting and creating, everyone’s on the same team. We want you to succeed.
And as for those of us who are readers too? We can’t wait to read what you’ve written.
We wanna know your story. We wanna watch your characters get entangled in wild adventures and emerge victorious. Or maybe battered. Or maybe smarter.
We want your stories. We need your characters.
Those of us who could read every day need something to read. So you need to write.
Who knows where your first steps will lead you? Who knows where today’s writing will take you?
Just in case you’re stuck, let me give you a few tips and hints for getting going. Try one, try a few. But don’t let a blank screen keep you from giving writing a try. Sometimes you need a jump-start, a priming of the pump. That’s what I’m providing today. Just a few ideas that may get your fingers moving and thoughts churning and the words flying onto the page.
Barring true emergencies and life-interrupting issues, the only thing that can keep you from finishing a writing project is you stopping before you’re done. But you can’t finish if you don’t begin somewhere. So begin somewhere today. And keep writing until you get to the end.
Simple, isn’t it?
Lack of ideas and opposition from other writers and no money are not reasons to not finish a novel. They’re excuses, granted. But they’re not reasons.
You have dozens, maybe hundreds, maybe thousands of ideas; no other writer can block you from writing a novel; and the cost, in terms of supplies needed, is minimal. So what’s holding you back? What’s to keep you from writing a few minutes in the car while you’re waiting in the drive-thru? What’s keeping you from jotting down ideas or fleshing out a scene after you tuck the kids into bed? What’s keeping you from writing for half an hour—30 short minutes—sometime today?
Vow that you won’t entertain excuses. Not this month. Not for the rest of this year.
How about for today? Just for today, don’t put up weak barriers and call them insurmountable. For today, push yourself and do it. Write something. A chapter. A scene. A bit of dialogue.
Write a setting description. Write a snippet of a moment that stirs your emotions.
Try to make yourself cry.
Maybe you can write something so bad that you stick your tongue out at your computer.
Write something. And reward yourself.
And then write something more.
I’ve given writing prompts before, but here are a few you can try today if you find yourself stuck. Use these to simply get writing, to free yourself, with no reference to your own writing project, or dump characters or setting or dialogue from your work in progress into these prompts and write something you can eventually use in your story.
But creating something specifically for a writing project is not necessarily the point here. The point is to write. To feel yourself doing it. To let the words flow without censor. To just go for it whether you can actually use the words or not. If you’re not ready to write something for your story, use these prompts for a warm-up. Just as you wouldn’t run full out without warming up first, you don’t have to dive head first into your story without warming up. There’s nothing wrong with, and lots right with, warming up with a writing exercise.
A few pump primers—
Describe a color using all the senses other than sight
Describe a dog or cat as if he were human
Describe a human as if he were a cow
Use a couple of pages to describe an imaginary world
Pick a real person or fictional character, drop him into a different era, and write a scene showing his first thoughts/reactions
Imagine a sad event and write it. Then twist the knife and make the situation worse. Then twist again.
Pull a random couple of words from the dictionary or synonym book and write a paragraph linking those words
Grab a piece of art off the wall and tell what happens two minutes later in that scene
Write one page about a monster
Write one page about a saint
Try to make a character shiver—from cold or from fear or from disgust
Write a page on the weather without using the words is, are, was, or there
Write two pages of nonstop dialogue between two characters; between three characters; from a single character
Put a joke in the mouth of one of your characters and make it work or make it fall flat
Write a parade scene from the viewpoint of a six-year-old
Write a parade scene from the viewpoint of a 85-year-old veteran
Write a funeral scene from the viewpoint of the ghost sitting two graves over
Describe a scene that’s in full darkness
Give your antagonist a major phobia and show us what happens when he has to deal with it
Write a couple of paragraphs overloaded with adjectives and adverbs
Write a page starting each sentence with the same word that ended the previous sentence
Write out the scene showing the most embarrassing moment in your lead character’s life
Describe your lead character’s hero
Write a scene showing a character at his most boring, then show what he’s actually imagining
If you’ve never tried it, write a
Try to write
Try anything that will get you writing.
Look at your desk—describe how any one item on it came to be. Imagine a paper mill or a factory where paper clips are bent. Imagine keyboards with keys put on in the wrong places. Or keys that can be moved around to produce codes.
Imagine people watching through a computer monitor—could you write about a character who’s watched through his electronics 24 hours a day? What about a drone at the agency that’s tasked to watch other people every day?
Imagine a secret drawer in the desk. What’s inside? Can you write about the stash or secret letters you find there?
What about the faithful dog or cat that keeps bugging you—can you write a couple of pages featuring an animal saving the world? Destroying it? Running it?
Okay, you’ve got plenty of options. Let one of them, or one of your own, ease you, drag you, push you into writing today. And when you’re ready, when the pump is primed, start working on that scene or dialogue from your own story.
And when you get stuck tomorrow or next week or next month, remember that you can write, that readers and other writers are pulling for you. That there are prompts that can ease you into your day’s writing time. That you can put words together.