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Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Face the Blank Page

By Cynthia Light Brown

Some writers relish a blank page. They love to write crazy-fast first drafts. I hate those writers. Blank pages are p-a-i-n-f-u-l; give me revision any day.

I even hate blank pages when I’m well into a novel, because what I really hate is first drafts. I give myself permission to write a crappy first draft, but it doesn’t seem to help much; it’s still VERY slow.

So how to get through it? Some people write very detailed outlines of an entire novel before they ever start writing the actual draft. That never appealed to me. I think an outline has a place in my writing process, but more after the first draft, to help analyze the novel and see the weak points.

That said, I’m trying a variation on outlining that is helping. Before I write a chapter, I write a broad outline of what happens; it might be just 2 or 3 plot points. Then I take one of those plot points and further divide it into smaller actions. I’m not writing dialogue or descriptions yet (though if a snappy dialogue line pops into my head, I write it off to the side in a comment), just the action. It’s very much like blocking out a scene. Then I finally get to writing one of these finer plot points. And I’m flexible; sometimes I don’t have to break it down very much at all before I’m ready to write the first, crappy draft. Other times I have to break it down a lot.

This is just one way to Face the Blank. Others I can think of might be meditation, writing a stream of consciousness, or maybe using a voice recognition software like Dragon. Anyone else have luck with a particular method?


  1. My comment got so long and detailed that I decided to write a post instead. So I'll get back to you on this interesting subject in a week or so!

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