If there is one thing that every single writer faces it is the blank page. We can’t help but come across it. Every new project starts the same way: a new, shiny, blank page.
Sometimes, we writers sit there, staring at it for what seems like an eternity. How do we overcome the blank page conundrum? Let’s find out.
Why Do We Dread the Blank Page?
As writer’s one thing we always face is the blank page. It crops up every time we start a new project, begin a new scene or start a new chapter. For the most part, the blank page isn’t something we think about. It isn’t on our minds all of the time. When it is on our minds, though, look out. It could start a pandemic. At least in our own little world.
While there truly are countless reasons for the blank page (and just as many reasons to hate it), there are a few reasons that crop up more often than the rest. Let’s define them here, shall we?
Not Being Prepared
Some writer’s (myself included in this group) get an idea for a story or a project and just open up the computer and start writing. If the idea isn’t planned out properly, you may find yourself unprepared for the task at hand.
You may have thought of the perfect opening line, so you start a new project, write it out and then sit there. The white space growing more and more prevalent as you stare at it. Eventually, you grow disgusted with the lack of production and hit the DEL key until you are left with the blank page of doom.
Fear of the Unknown/Wanting to Be More Than Great
Another common occurrence is that we plot and plan and are ready to go, only to find we stall when it comes to those first few lines. We know that the first 5 pages need to be more than spectacular, so we try extra hard.
By trying so hard to be amazing or perfect we often find ourselves staring at the blank page for much longer than we need to. Perhaps we don’t know exactly where the story will go, or maybe we know too much and want to make every word the most spectacular verbiage possible. Either way, we stare at the blinking cursor letting self-doubt creep in and take over.
Finally, the third most popular reason for the blank page gremlin’s is writer’s block. I wrote an article on this a little bit ago. I know how important this is (it is the second highest read article on the personal blog next to self-doubt).
Writer’s block affects us all at some point. Even if just for a moment. The most prepared and ready-to-go author will sit down once in a while with nothing to write. It is daunting and we all know it is coming, sooner or later.
No matter the reason you give yourself for fearing that plain, white page, there are ways to overcome it, get past it and start writing again. How? Allow me to show you.
How Do You Overcome the Blank Page?
For every reason you can come up with to even worry about the emptiness, there are just as many methods to overcome it. I have my own, personal method that I cover in the course. There are other ways you can help yourself get past this as well.
Have an Outline
Creating an outline is a lot of work. It is basically an entire novel in and of itself. It comes complete with drafts, revisions, edits and rewrites. All in the attempt to give you a road map of how to write your novel.
A good outline will be the bare-bones version of your story. In fact, you should be able to give your outline to someone, let them read it and have them know exactly what is going on in your story from beginning to end.
Some authors even get optioned by their agents or publishers based solely on the outline. If you have a solid outline, you have everything you need and you should never stare at a blank page longer than it takes to start typing.
Some of us Don’t Like Outlines, Though
Stephen King coined a term in his book “On Writing” where he called people that don’t plan ahead with outlines as “Pantsers.” The term comes from the fact that these individuals write by the seat of their pants.
Whether you are a Planner or a Pantser doesn’t matter, the page will still be empty when you start out. If you are a Pantser, though, you may have to find another way to go about getting over the hurdle.
One of the best methods is to start in the middle of your story. Just pick a scene or chapter you know that you want to write and start writing. You can always go back and add a beginning later. If you have an ending in mind that you want to build to, write the ending.
Remember, this is your story to tell, there are no rules and you don’t have to conform to any writing style that says otherwise. Do it your way, be proud and happy about it. Just start putting words down, you can rearrange their order at any time.
The Visual Web
I mentioned earlier that I created my own method of outlining. I tend to be more of a Pantser than a Planner. There are reasons I don’t like traditional outlines and I cover them in the Extra Draft Method Course.
However, I also feel that I need some sort of road map. I created the Visual Web as a way to not only give my story some sort of outline, but also a checklist, a visual aid, and a way to tell where my twists, turns and subplots (as well as characters) all fit together, without binding them to a certain area of my story.
The Vis-Web is a great way to keep your story inline without being organized or overly pedantic about a specific structure. I find it allows my stories to develop on their own, they tend to write themselves and if I ever get stuck (such as staring at a vast, empty page), I can return to the Vis-Web and find where I am and where I need to go next.
Make Your Own Way to Avoid the Blank Page
If you find that you suffer from this blank page conundrum, find a method that helps you put words on paper. I’d love to hear how you battle this writing demon, so feel free to share your experiences with the group (use the comment section below!).
If you don’t have a method of your own yet, try one of the above-mentioned ways and see if they work for you.