The Blank Screen and Writing Tools

I rarely ever (I want to say “never,” but I’m sure that’s not true) stare at a blank computer screen, trying to think of what to write. This is for two reasons:

1.) I prefer writing my scenes on paper first.

This is most likely because of my development: I have always been a writer, and did not have access to a computer until I was in middle school (I want to say 13). In addition to this, writing on paper benefits my writing in other ways: One has clear, tactile evidence of progress, one can review one’s mistakes, and writing uses a different part of the brain than typing. (I have noticed that I use contractions more often when typing a scene up, which is fascinating to me in ways that many find mundane.) Typing out written material also gives me an opportunity to make slight revisions, which are always important.

2.) I don’t start writing unless I have a concrete idea in my head.

This is a pro and a con. Pro: I don’t have to stare at a blank page (or screen) with mounting anxiety for any extended amount of time. As soon as I find the words, I’m off.

Finding the words, however, is often an issue: Sometimes I will have to start with a general description of what I would like to write, then have narrative flow when the words come. Other times, I start with some real zingers, and when I hit a wall, end with general description. I have pages which weave between the two.

Con: It’s not good for practicing writing, and practice makes perfect. Although many authors advise us that we should write to our comfort levels, others advise us to write often, or every day. In practicing, we find our voice as writers, we experiment with styles, we taste-test words, and we generate ideas that may even flourish into projects.

I am not a prolific writer, but I want to be. Developing the discipline to write every day would help this.

I stated in a previous post my desire to write more short stories. This is not only to practice, but also to be able to get some publishing credits under my belt (because no one wants to publish novels by an unpublished writer). When I sit down to write without having a concrete idea, I do get the dreaded blank screen/page, because all of the ideas I have (currently) either belong to my current project (My Name Is Not Heather Stokes), or do not fit in the short-story format. The narrative does not flow organically.

However… I have been thinking about a lot of concepts concerning my current project that do not fit in the narrative of the three novels, but still want to be told (kind of like JK Rowling’s post-Deathly Hallows HP writings).

So perhaps my next post will be…

Thatch was lost in the desert. Well, not exactly lost. He could point out his general location on a map. He knew where he was. He knew where his car was. He also knew what was wrong with it, and why it had stopped running.

Which takes me to my next tool:

If I come up with a general idea, and I’m not ready to begin writing, or in a place where I can’t write (3 AM, in bed, with no book light), I will use the memo pad on my phone. That being said, if I had a book light, I would use Post-its, but a phone is usually quickly at-hand, and I carry it everywhere with me anyway. My only grip is that I hate typing on it, because I cannot do without an Otterbox (long story…), and the plastic protective covers cause a significant amount of typos that I am too anal to ignore.

(About the Otterbox, since it’s amusing: I have never broken a phone myself, but my husband is a firefighter. His phones have been run over by a rescue engine not once, but TWICE. The first time, it was in pieces. The second time, it was in an Otterbox.)

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