I’ve heard it said, and I used to think this often, that it’s hard to start writing a story.
Who are the characters? What’s their background? Where is the story set? At what point in this fictional setting are we introducing the reader, and when are we leaving?
All viable questions, but I find myself getting hung up on these details almost before I’ve begun.
Recently I’ve taken a new approach to writing, mainly as practice and giving my writing some inertia. I’ve been giving up on trying to create the details, and simply writing them down.
I’ll give you a moment to think about that and wonder if I’ve gone mad…
And now I’ll explain.
Something I discovered the last time I was sick with a virus that gave me a mild fever was that I could write with ease. The story idea flowed as though I was watching a movie in my head and simply transcribing it into text. Then I got well, and became extremely frustrated. The movie ended, the story stopped flowing, and my writing came to a screeching halt.
I had to wonder about this, and really wonder where the story came from? Re-reading it again, it’s obvious that I didn’t take the whole idea from somewhere else. It has elements of common ideas, such as the concept of magic and typical stereotypes, but the overall story is rather unique. I wrote it, but I didn’t know what part of my mind came up with the thing in the first place.
“John Darian looked into the pond and saw a submarine floating just under the surface, firing torpedoes at the impending doom of his favourite mottled goldfish.”
I wrote that without thinking about whether or not it made sense. I created that just now, without a care as to whether it goes anywhere.
“Bob Johnson and his wife were happy about their lives, but they couldn’t quite console their happiness with the existence of the blue parrot which stole their apples.”
Not sensible really, but it flows. It’s not trying to write a story, it’s letting the mind freewheel.
“I don’t like green peaches with sour cream. Eggs and blue bacon are more enjoyable when watching Io rise over Jupiter.”
Complete nonsense, but there’s a spark of a story in there, a potential trigger to a much larger tale.
Believe it or not, it’s working for me as a way of letting my ideas flow. In the last few weeks I’ve written three full length novels (60,000 to 75,000 words). They’re pure schlock and not really publishable, but they’re there. They exist, where as a few weeks ago they didn’t, and there was no chance for any of them to become an actual proper, publishable story. They have plots, and characters with surprising amounts of depth, and they exist in fictional locations with enormous potential for reuse and fleshing out.
Without thinking about what I’m writing and just letting it happen I’ve been consistently pumping out 15,000 words a day of useable ideas and concepts, characters which could be realistic with a little tweaking, and places which only need a little bit of editing to be almost locatable on a map.
I’ve found my trick to overcoming writers block. I don’t worry about what’s coming next, I just write it and ignore whether it makes sense or not; usually it does.
You’ll often hear people ask,
“How can I get started writing?”
And other people will answer,
I want to add a little addendum to this and say,
Start writing without thinking, and don’t criticise your work until the second draft. Become a reader, never quite knowing what’s coming up until your hands have written it, and maybe you’ll accidentally create something really good.