As Creative Writers, we want to do a good job. The problem is that sometimes we want to get it perfect on the first draft. The end result is that we are greatly slowed down or blocked altogether. When perfection doesn’t pop right out, we get frustrated and stop all writing until suitability resumes, and it doesn’t, so we do nothing. The answer is simple: put something down and move on. Here are a few tricks I use to keep the writing ongoing.
A Car Does Something Down The Street
When I get stuck for a single word, it’s usually for a verb. I’ll write a sentence with a verb that is not quite strong enough, and my little pre-editor says, “Find a better word.” This is where I get stuck if nothing manifests itself within fifteen seconds. So I put an absolutely non-sense word and go on. That way I keep on writing and leave something behind I cannot miss in re-writes.
For example, if I write, “the car drives down the road,” and I want to replace “drives” with something better, I might make it read “the car lollipops down the road,” or “the car fishwifes down the road.” There is no way that will get passed me the second time.
Somewhere A Dog Barks
Sometimes we need some activity, but our minds are stumped as to what kind and where. I once heard that when you are locked for some action, simply write, “somewhere a dog barks,” and this will be the clue for you in re-writes to put in some action.
I have a bad habit of writing longer bits of dialogue that reads like a screenplay. All talk, no action. I know this, and it might as well be a script for a radio show. So what I do is that I write the dialogue straight through. Then when I am done, I go through it and break up the conversation with “a dog barks” every several exchanges. In re-writes I put in activity that makes the work come alive with real people talking and doing things.
This dialogue-breaking action can be by the parties in conversation or some accompanying background movement. The key to using these incidentals is to make the action mirror the mood of the conversation. One of my favorite examples comes from the movie Good Will Hunting. Will and his girlfriend are having a conversation in the park. In the background you see two old men playing chess. This perfectly reflects the manipulation of the dialogue.
A Man Walks Into The Room With A Gun
Sometimes your scene slugs and you need something almost out of the blue to happen to make your characters react. I once read that Raymond Carver used to write “A man walks into the room with a gun,” whenever he got stuck like this.
Try my trick. Write down between a dozen to twenty phrases like Carver’s. When you get in a spot, pull three of them out at random. Pick one and write it in. Make your people react.
I have pulled three of my own phrases out and here is what we got. “A ball bounces and stops at his feet.” “A bird flies into the glass door.” “From overhead, water drips on his head through the ceiling.”
This makes you write something creative that will probably be bad but may be ingenious. Either way, you keep on writing. And have fun with these phrases. I have one involving a sudden appearance by Darth Vader and another with the Doctor coming out of his Tardis, so you can do anything with these.
Remember, keep on writing and don’t get hung up. It easier to continue when you use a few tricks that help you get over the need to write flawless first drafts. Give your self permission to fix things. Just keep on writing.
What trick do you use to get over the hitch? I would love to hear about them. Tell me about them in the Comment section below. And if you found this material helpful, please share it with other writers you know.