New characters, a totally new world, new conflicts, new everything. It’s a weird feeling to be first drafting again, especially on an idea that feels so HUGE. Like, it feels intimidating, almost impossibly huge. Almost.
I’m writing it in the thick, leather-covered journal you see above. In one of my drafts for my first novel, I discovered that writing by hand makes me feel a deeper connection to my characters (probably because I’ve filled 20+ journals in my 28 years—I think the pen-to-lined-leather-book action automatically evokes a feeling of vulnerability in me). Already, I find myself able to focus on their stories. It helps take the this-book-is-way-too-big-for-me edge off of things, an edge that might, otherwise, be paralyzing.
To anyone trying to start, continue, or finish writing a book that feels too big: here are three ways to move from paralyzed to productive.
[one] Think on the page. Not your actual manuscript page—another one. Write out your ideas about setting, character, plot, everything you can think of that somehow relates to your too-big novel. Write, write, write, until someone forces you to make dinner (or eat dinner). Or, if you find yourself feeling oddly compelled to bake a wedding cake or scrub the baseboards of your living room with a toothbrush, set a timer and do not stop brainstorming until it goes off. You WILL end up with ideas to work with, and they will help you start to feel big enough of a writer to write your idea.
[two] Set a timer, then obey it. Even if you are a fountain of words, a timer is helpful. Set the timer for an hour. Put the pen on the page (or the fingers to the keyboard). Write words. Do not stop to check e-mail, or Twitter, or Facebook. Rinse and repeat. Do the distracting things in between timer sessions (and set a timer for that part, too).
[three] Just start writing. Then, put one word after another. In this stage of early drafting, I find myself thinking, “What is the perfect scene I need to write next?” This is great—but it also can be paralyzing. Perfection has no place in a first draft. What I’ve been doing, instead, is thinking, a) what is the logical next step, b) what would I most want to read if I was the reader, and c) what feels creative (as opposed to dull and boring)? I then spend a few minutes thinking of a way to begin a scene and go from there. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just a catalyst to some sort of action that meets the above requirements. This method keeps the action moving and often brings new ideas to mind that I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.
So, there you have it. Yes, this stuff is common sense, and no, it doesn’t make the actual writing any easier. That part still takes work. It does do something magical, though: brainstorming + productivity + consistent output = control over a larger-than-life idea. All of which leads to CONFIDENCE. That huge idea came from your brain. You can write it, if you put your mind to it and do the work.
Take control of your ideas. Don’t let them control you.