The Write Way: Sometimes We Just Need A Hand

You’re moving right along on your new project.  The characters are no longer one dimensional, the plot’s moving at just the right pace; then suddenly you sit down at the computer/typewriter/legal pad and nothing happens.  You’re stuck.

Nothing is more chilling to a writer than an empty page.  I outline extensively to avoid them, but even with that weapon in my arsenal, sometimes I still don’t know what comes next, or how to put it there.

Through the years I’ve developed coping strategies to get me moving again.  In hopes one of them will help you, here are some to choose from.

Blocking Background Noise:

While I can’t write to music as many of my colleagues can, I have discovered a few noise-blocking tricks to help me focus. ? Background noise can pull us out of our stories and make it difficult to jump that abyss to a completed page.  Pandora’s “ambient” station plays New Age music, complete with environmental sound effects. Pandora is free, as well.   If that’s too “musical” to suit you, another good bet can be found here at Sleepbot Environmental Broadcast.  You’ll have to set it up to play on your system, but I followed the iTunes instructions easily.  Now I can turn the station on or off from iTunes without going online.  More options are available under set up.

Sleep is Your Friend:

Did all that ambient music lull you to sleep?  Dreaming can help you move past whatever is blocking you.  Power naps alone can sometimes do this, but so  can pre-sleep suggestions like: “When I wake up I’ll understand better why Mary is refusing to let Joe back into her life.”  Silly?  Not.  Suggestions–also called Dream Incubation–often work if you believe they can.  The unconscious is your friend.

Brainstorming List:

Ever come to a dead halt in your story because you don’t know what should happen next?  We’ve all been there.  In previous blogs I’ve mentioned the List of 20, which I first heard about during a workshop with Linda Lael Miller.  Here’s a great link to a similar process, only this author suggests a List of 100.  While I would find that many options daunting, 20 works perfectly for me.  You can use your list to determine your characters’ motives, to solve a plot problem, to figure out what should happen next, and even more practical concerns, like how to market the book. 

Time yourself:

Finally, an idea I first learned of via Serena Miller.  When you sit down to work, set a timer for 45 minutes.  When the timer goes off, do something else for the next 15.  From experience I’ve learned this means doing something completely different in another part of the house. Taking a break increases productivity. 

Need a timer right there on screen so you can’t ignore it?  Try Cool Timer from Harmony Hollow Software.  I’ve never had a problem with this free program, although I hesitate to download anything.  I set mine to go off to the sound of waves crashing–a wav file I added, also from the internet. 

Just a few tips today, but any one of them might help you get past the next hurdle and on to the end of your book.  And like the hokey pokey, that’s what it’s all about.

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