Make a List
Making a List is essential to your writing. As tedious as it may be for the impatient writer, organising your thoughts can open the floodgates into characterisation, world building, plot, setting, arc building, and goal building.
Without the last two in particular, your story will fall flat and lack ambition.
When I talk with writers and their problems with ‘writers block’, I often encounter two things. The first is the writer sitting hour after hour at their desk. The second is the characters in the WIP are also sitting stagnate.
The writer needs physical exercise. MOVE! Explore your neighbourhood. Find the hidden paths. Find the scars in your city. In turn, these discoveries will feed your writing, and your characters should start talking to you.
Make sure you listen.
Find the Need
What needs does your character have? What are their intentions, their ambitions and their hurt?
What needs does your story hold and project to readers? What’s the end goal? Why is the end goal important? What are the ramifications?
Find the Need and you’ll find the story.
Find the hidden paths. Find the scars in your city. In turn, these discoveries will feed your writing, and your characters should start talking to you.
Raise the Stakes
You’ve finally fleshed out and written your first character hurdle and incorporated the struggle into your plot arc, but something is invariably missing . . .
When this happens, be cruel to your fantasy friends. Raise the Stakes. Find that darkness. Place your characters in a position you yourself would dread. Force them to survive.
Study a Photograph
Depending on your genre, the photographs you study will vary.
Historical images can present contemporary problems in a new light; landscapes can open the author to new lands and adventures.
Let your mind run free. Follow your instincts and look for the fine details. You never know, someone or something might be looking right back.
Find the Music
Many successful authors have a theme to their book – and we’re not talking about plot and character.
Music has been around for as long as storytelling, and it makes sense to find your story’s beat. Create a list of songs fitting for your WIP and let the lyrics and mood help set the tone as you write.
Place your characters in a position you yourself would dread. Force them to survive.
Establishing a daily word count is essential for your writing career. Hold yourself accountable but be kind to yourself. A daily limit of 5000 words IS NOT a realistic option for most.
Start small. Focus on the end goal. Even 250 words a day will get you a manuscript in 12 months’ time.
A reader expects details. Details of smell, sight, touch, emotion and ambition. Details without being overwhelmed with three pages of description.
Verbosity is just plain showing off and will derail you from this goal. Write in simple, accessible everyday language, edit out unnecessary words, and most importantly, don’t assume your reader ‘gets’ it in the same way you do.
Zooming In and Out
Zooming in and out from the details used when being specific is a great tool in presenting the bigger picture.
Think of your writing as a photographer. Zoom that lens in to capture those creases around the eyes frowning; zoom out when you’re done to show why they’re so upset.
Start small. 250 words a day will get you a manuscript in 12 months time.
Study Opening Lines
By studying the opening lines of writing greats, you’re tackling writer’s block head on. (You may also stumble across another great book to read).
Opening lines prompt your brain to think like a published author. Study the structure, the language and use of description. How is the story established quickly? Where’s the hook to hold the reader? How is it inviting you to stay? Study the ‘voice.’
If you’re feeling adventurous, take the opening paragraph and craft your own story in a writing exercise.
It might kick start a new manuscript.
Create a Conflict
Creating a conflict goes hand in hand with the book’s story arcs. Without a conflict driving your story, the book will fall flat.
Conflict makes your characters relatable. Your protagonist/antagonist needs a goal to move them forward, and without the conflict to stand in their way, there’s no connection with the reader’s own memories. Conflict dramatizes ambition and the character’s personality and places the characters and plot into a familiar world.
This writing prompt relates to #1 Raise the Stakes.
Make your characters suffer, people!
Write a Letter
The act of writing a letter doesn’t have to be tedious or boring. It should be insightful.
Write a letter from your antagonist’s point of view. What would they say? Who would they address? What are their goals, their concerns, their secrets?
Do this for your main characters. Have them address each other or even the reader. Get inside their minds.
Conflict dramatizes ambition and the character’s personality.