Friday, 25 March 2011

Friday Five: Beating Blank Page Syndrome


Picture the scene. You've sat down to start writing and the cursor pulsates on the empty Word document or a pen sits unused on your notepad. Your mind freezes and you can't think of a single thing to write; not even the title. You've fallen prey to Blank Page Syndrome.

So, what can you do to avoid this dream-destroying affliction?

1. Avoid distractions. Make sure you've completed or delegated your household chores, the family knows not to disturb you, your mobile is turned off, and that you have a flask of coffee and a plate of biscuits at your side. If you haven't, these distractions will occupy your thoughts and demand your attention.

2. Never start writing without a specific goal in mind. This goal can take any form, from a piece of flash fiction to another chapter of your WIP. The important part is to already have an idea of what you're going to write. If you really can't think of one, pick up the dictionary, choose three words at random, and start writing.

3. Always finish a writing session with the current scene or chapter not completed - this will give you an incentive to get back to it and there will be no blank page waiting for you.

4. Take a break and revitalise your creative juices. Spending hours alone at the keyboard can be draining. So, meet friends for coffee. Take time out with your family. Visit the beach. Walk in the countryside. Go to the cinema. You will be amazed at how creatively charged you'll feel when you return to your WIP.

and the most important tip:

5. Never give in to Blank Page Syndrome. Even if you only write 100 words or an entry in your diary, you have written something, and something is better than nothing. If you are serious about your craft you will not let the blank page beat you. Think of yourself as a marathon runner in training - you need to push through the pain barrier to achieve results.

How do you beat blank pages?

29 comments:

  1. Great advice Ellie. I often start off by revising something I've previously written. That can make it seem less of a leap to begin writing something new.

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  2. Awesome advice, Ellie. I start by reading what I had written the previous day, this acts as a warm up exercise and gets the brains cells ticking away merrily, and as I consantly think of my WIP, its not a difficult task. The blank page affects me when I start something new.

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  3. Wonderful tips ont the blank page,
    Somedays I can write a poem...others not.

    Have a good day,

    Yvonne,

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  4. Hi,

    Fab advice!

    That oh so blank page is before moi right now: the upcoming A-Z challenge not in the least prepared for. Each day an off-the-cuff post will emerge to either enlighten in a literary sense, cause a titter, or failing that bore fellow bloggers senseless. ;)

    best
    F

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  5. Excellent advice! When I get stuck I ask my characters questions like, 'Do you have cold feet? Have you read LOTR?' That sorts me out!

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  6. Now, you see, number two doesn't work for me. I just type. (I always compose on screen - don't know why anyone still uses a pen and pad.....) I guess that's years of being a journalist and working to tight deadlines. It's no use telling the sub editors that the muse just didn't strike. So I just start with anything.

    A friend once told me that her mind went blank during an English language exam so she started by writing "Pigs is the plural of pig". I've always loved that.

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  7. Love the advice. Not giving up is the most important for me. Like you mentioned, even writing 100 words is better than nothing and being defeated.

    Reading usually stimulates my creative juices when it all goes blank. If not, at least it relaxes me. LOL

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  8. Great tips Ellie. I think the taking a break is very important to get some more life experiences with which to write about and to free the mind. :O)

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  9. I'm addicted to Focus Booster:

    http://www.focusboosterapp.com/

    It's free, and Aidan Fritz is using it now, too. It's been almost like magic for me since I started using it. Productivity increased like mad. I first heard about it via Amanda Hocking's blog, and figured if she thought it was great, I'd give it a go.

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  10. Great advice. I think #2 is very important (especially for me, since I am knee-deep in a rewrite). Setting little goals not also gives you something to focus on during your writing session, when you do achieve it, it's a nice checkbox that you can feel good about.

    I often leave scenes unfinished, especially if I get stuck. I'll hop into something else and go back to it later, and somehow magically become unstuck.

    Like Rachna mentioned above, I also go back and read a previous chapter or re-read the scene up until the stuck point to help get my brain going (and you know, to remember what the heck I'd written!).

    Breaks are also very important. My dog always makes sure I get me breaks (and she gets her walks). :)

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  11. Ooooh the curse of the Blank Page!!!!! Thanks for these yummy practical helpful tips!!!!! They're all good!!!

    I'm feeble when it comes to avoiding distractions - feeble!! No will power at all!!

    I do like writerly prompts!!! I think I really enjoyed your writerly crusade of the goldfish bowl - that was a great prompt - so many fab stories out of this sentence!!!

    Take care
    x

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  12. I agree with number three. I do this one a lot. Especially as you near the end of the chapter, stop there because you know how the scene ends and it usually ends on a cliff-hanger.

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  13. ooo, by just getting in there and getting started. I tell ya. I write short features for our local paper, and some days (like today) I get it BAD!

    Just get writing. :D <3

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  14. great advice, i pulled a book i had written and finished in 1998... i am having two people look over it, see if it's worth sharing... i have been inspired by so many of you writers. i so want to be part of a bigger family. thank you and thank everyone.

    jeremy

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  15. These are wonderful tips. Sometimes the fear of a blank page keeps me from sitting down to write at all, but I've learned if I don't at least try, it's for sure nothing will happen. The more I relax into it, the more the writing comes. Sometimes I get up and take a walk, or dance around the room, or sing a song, which shifts the energy and then I can write
    karen

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  16. Wise words and duly noted- I've printed them and put them on my bord.
    Lx

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  17. Great tips. I can never beat the blank page, I simply walk away, :)

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  18. I do a modified #3. When I finish for the day, I tap out a few more words that will lead me into the next day's scene.

    I find that just writing the start of the next scene will linger with me subconsciously. Sometimes I even dream about how the next scene will play out.

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  19. Great advice! I really enjoy your Friday Five!

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  20. #1 is very hard for me. Three kids, cat, house, and husband all vying for my attention. It's midnight, and cat and husband are still waiting for me ;)

    For this busy mom, I write in spurts. Whenever it's nap time, bed time, whenever there's a spare 10 minutes, I type something.

    Couldn't agree more with #5--if you're a busy mom, dad, or just busy with anything, and you want to write, you just have to keep at it. Little by little. Day after day!

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  21. #3 is something brand new that I've been using. And it works! Before, I always felt like I had to complete a chapter or a scene before stopping. Now I stop somewhere in the middle so I'm hungry to continue when I sit back down to write.

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  22. Great advice! I also practise #3. It helps a lot!

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  23. Okay. This is odd as hell but here is my method for combating the nefarious blank page.
    I ask my characters what their state of mind is in a particular scene then go run on the treadmill.
    It’s like opening the door in my mind. The voices begin talking to me again.
    Psychotic much?

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  24. I like your blog.
    I'm on the A-Z Challenge too. RuthieTootieWishes

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  25. Blank Page Syndrome--what a nightmare that is.

    Great advice! I might just have to touch on the subject myself, once of these days.

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  26. I read my junk mail. We all have a friend that sends online jokes. I read the online jokes until I find something good, then I write it down. After I gather a few, I write the joke into my story somewhere.

    It makes for a lot of twists and turns in the story.

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  27. This is so true, Ellie. I find that most of my "writing" is done away from the keyboard. I need to form scenes in my mind before I can get them down on the page, so if I'm blank the only thing to do is walk away for a bit.

    However, to keep me going through my one completed novel, I had many sections on the go at once. If I came to a standstill in one spot, I'd hop over to somewhere else and see if I could make progress there.

    Another tip for keeping up momentum, is not to get hung up on an obstacle. If I'm struggling with a section but I know what needs to happen, I jot down a few notes (highlighted in red text, so it would stand out easily as something to come back to) and skip ahead to the part which I am able to write.

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