For me, writing tends to become increasingly more difficult every time I have a good idea. I get a nugget of an idea, and it is so perfect that I don’t know how to write it. I try, but then it doesn’t work. This is why I hate getting good ideas. I would rather come to the idea part way through my writing, so that I would already be warmed up and on the way with it. This is what happened with my last manuscript, and the one that I like the best (so far).
So, how do I go about trying to stumble upon these ideas?
The answer is surprisingly simple: I write.
I write an excerpt of a novel that I would like to read, or have read, when I was the age of the audience I am writing for. With the last one, I was in desperate need of something for my Gr. 5 students to read. I wanted an excerpt, and I wanted something that would grab them. I knew these kids very well, and I knew that anything at their reading level that I had ever found would not entice them enough to bring out a week’s worth of discussion, lessons and reading responses. So, I wrote it instead. At first, I didn’t even know I was “writing” per sae. When the kids went absolutely wild for it (without knowing I had written it), I knew that I had to write the rest of it. So, I made some tweaks, and got writing. Over time, the scene changed drastically, but it was the start to something that I am very proud of.
Now, I try to do the same thing to get my mind going, to get the ideas rolling, and to stumble into something while letting my imagination run wild.
I am not a very good planner. It sucks the life out of the stories for me, even though the ideas are solid. I’m what is a pantser – someone who writes as they write. I have TRIED to plan. I’ve written pages of character prep, and story arcs and plots. Those stories all sucked. They were never finished.
As a pantser, I try to start writing and see what happens. It’s all well intended and fun to do, except that I get annoyed with my writing before I get anywhere.
This is where my excerpt process helps. By writing something that would be in the middle of the story, I am able to get a visual of WHO is in the story, WHAT it feels like, WHEN it’s happening, WHERE it’s happening, and WHAT the PROBLEM is.
It’s worth a shot. You just write a section of a story – write whatever comes to you. But pretend we already know about the characters, why they’re there and what’s going on. Imagine you’ve opened the book in the middle, and this is what’s happening. It works for me – maybe it can work for you, too!