Do you have an idea for a scene, a poem, or a short story that’s giving you trouble? You just can’t find the right words? You can’t seem to organize your thoughts?
No worries. It happens to all of us.
When I was a technical writer, I read a great bit of advice and I’ve offered it numerous times since to writers. It will work for creative writing too. Here’s a tip to get what’s in your head down on paper (or screen).
Last month, I wrote about writing a scene right the first time. This article offers a similar, but different, take on the brainstorming process.
Pretend you have a friend, colleague, spouse, or someone you can talk to easily (even your dog) sitting across the desk from you. Now, you need to tell them what your scene is about: who’s in it, what’s happening, where it’s happening, when it’s happening, and so on. You don’t really want your friend in the same room because you can be sure they’ll just want to keep asking questions or making suggestions, and then you’ll be distracted all over again. However, you might imagine what questions they’ll ask, and that’s good.
Without stopping, write everything that’s in your head. As you write, more ideas will inevitably arise. If an idea pops into your head that you’re not sure about, write it anyway and follow it with a question mark. Don’t worry about neatness (if you’re handwriting), spelling, grammar, organization, looking ridiculous, or anything else. By the way, there’s something about handwriting, that makes words flow differently from when you type. If typing is getting in the way, get a piece of lined paper, your favorite pen, and write. Just write. If you feel compelled, talk out loud to the dog or mumble to yourself.
Write or type until no more words travel from your brain, down your arm, through your hand, and onto the paper or screen.
Stop. Your brainstorming session is complete. Go have breakfast or a cup of coffee. Go walk the dog. Come back later — at least an hour later — and read your notes. Make no judgments.
Now, write your first draft. That’s it. You did it!
Well, not quite. Now you need to revise. Unless you’re Ms. (or Mr.) Brilliance, the first draft is not your best draft. Polish your work through as many drafts as it takes, taking a break between each revision.
Try it. Write away! Let me know how it goes.