Writing is awesome. We all know that already. But sometimes, and kind of a lot of the time, writing can get hard. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to rewrite the beginning of my novel, rewriting how the characters meet and form their… complicated relationships. That’s really hard. You might be at a point in your writing where it’s getting difficult too, so I’m not alone in this.
But here’s the good thing: there are things we can use to help us get out of this!
I’m going to call these things tools for writers, even though that’s probably the first thing you think of when you hear them.
Let’s start with books.
Yes, I know you are supposed to be writing, and not getting lost in other stories. I get it. This is a dangerous thing to do, but we’ll just have to tough it out. Say you are having trouble figuring out how to write a scene. Let’s say that your main character and love interest are going to kiss, but you have no idea how to write something like that without it being cheesy or awkward.
This is where books come to the rescue! First, look at all of the books you have on hand. And this is a reason I like to write at libraries, because there are plenty of tools for me to use to get over the difficult parts of the novel. Think of all of the books you’ve read where two characters kissed, everything from a nonchalant moment to some explosion of feelings. Now get some sticky notes. Find those books. Mark the pages with the kiss.
Here’s where we get to the writing part. Do you remember way back wen I told you about the Hero’s Journey Archetype? Now it’s time for you to build your own archetype. To do this, look at all of the scenes you have in front of you. Look at the similarities between them. The chain of events. Of course there are going to be variations between these scenes, but that’s good because it gives you choices.
I’m not saying that you should steal a description or scene from another book. That’s cheating. That’s bad. The point of this is to come up with your own juicy scene that other people want to steal.
Maybe the first step is to set mood of the scene. Is it going to be fast paced or calm? You can show this with the length and amount of dialogue and description. The actions and word choice to describe the characters. If it is a fast paced scene, don’t describe the character’s every breath, and maybe use words that don’t slow down the reader. Then maybe you move on to the next step, and the next. Pretty soon, you will have built up a scene, and then you can edit the guts out of it, because you’ll need to.
And you can do this with several other thing, not just scenes. For example, in a minute I’m going to pull out book from my shelf and try to see how the beginning of the stories were written. I’ve got a good first chapter, but I don’t have a good beginning to my story. Or at least, I’m not happy with it. I need to make up my own archetype as to how to fix that.
The next tool that you can use is the people around you. Say you are trying to figure out the title for your novel, but can’t decide between the ones on your list. Use the people around you to figure out which ones are great and which ones are going to turn your readers away.
During NaNoWriMo, my family and I had a campfire with smores and a friend who had helped me come up with titles. We all sat around and had votes deducing the titles down to a list of five or six, so I could decide. I went two at a time, asking which one they would want to read, a novel named Holding My Breath or Under the Surface. Then I could cross one out and carry the other over to the next title. By the end, I had a good idea of which one I wanted to use.
Another tool you can use comes for when you are trying to fill a plot hole. Besides the usual tools of sticky notes and pencils and markers and laptops, there’s another thing you can use to figure out what plot twist to put in. There are tons of websites out there where you can find story prompts. They are there for a reason.
And I’m not saying that you should use these prompts verbatim. Say you go to Google, search up novel writing prompts, and find one amidst the maze of websites. Maybe it says that your character does chores. That’s kind of a boring and lousy prompt. Why would anyone want to read about a character doing chores? You know, unless it’s somehow symbolic and important to the story.
So you change it to be yours. Chores… Maybe instead, your character needs to get a job. And then don’t make it easy for them. Throw obstacles in their way and discourage them and then maybe even when they finally get one, something goes wrong on their first day.
There are more tools you can use. Plenty more. Like researching the facts behind your story and getting first hand accounts of a situation that might have happened in your novel. But I’m thinking that I’ll end up having to make another post for that.
More importantly, my challenge for you is to try out at least one of these tools to improve your writing. To get over writer’s block. To find inspiration. To fill those dreadful plot holes. To figure out whatever step it is that you need to take next. I hope that maybe you can find something useful from a stack of books, a bunch or prompts, or the people around you.
Who knows… It might even spark something new for your next book.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!