When I’m supposed to be writing but don’t quite have the nerve, I read. I have a special stack of books of interviews with famous writers about writing, and I read them and take notes when all else fails. I often type up those notes as a way to get the fingers moving, and soon I shift over to whatever writing project I was supposed to be doing in the first place. Today I found some good advice from John Steinbeck:
On Getting Started
Now let me give you the benefit of my experience facing 400 pages of blank stock – the appalling stuff that must be filled. I know that no one really wants the benefit of anyone’s experience which is why it’s so freely offered. But the following are some of the things I have had to do to keep from going nuts.
- Abandon the idea you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished you are always surprised.
- Write freely and rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
- Forget your general audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person – a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
- If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it – bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find the reason it gave you trouble was that it didn’t belong there.
- Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
- If you are using dialog say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.