|By Antonio Litterio
1. DRIVE THAT DRY: When you’ve had a run of successful writing sessions, it comes as a shock when you hit a dry patch. Don’t panic. The act of writing is like holding handfuls of sand: the harder you try, the more effort you put in, the closer to impossible it gets. The first blank sheet, or coming back after a break, is always tough. Forget what you planned to write. Instead, plunge straight in to writing your most exciting scene. It doesn’t matter if it’s out of context, just get something down on paper. This works on the sink or swim principle. It may just take a prod to make the words start flowing again. If that doesn’t work, there’s a point when sitting and suffering is pointless. Visit your own particular well of inspiration, even if it’s only snatching a nap or taking a walk. Chill out. Stop and smell the flowers. Sometimes you achieve more by trying less.
2. PLAY FAST AND DIRTY: When you’re first grabbed by an idea, don’t get bogged down in detail. As long as you’ve done the groundwork on your characters and conflicts, try this. Charge straight through your story, writing only the dialogue. Scribble away as fast as you can, getting down on paper or screen all the juiciest exchanges. Start the beginning, and work right through to the end. You’re not looking to write the whole novel at this stage. You’ll probably change a million things about it before you’re satisfied with your final draft, but that’s in the future. What you want at this stage is a big boost to your self-esteem. The explosion of your idea into visible words will power you on to the finish.
3. FINE TUNE THE FUTURE: Your first, “dirty” draft captures all the interpersonal, edge of the seat stuff – the interplay of character and conflicts that first got your idea up and running. If you’ve invested in plenty of thinking time and done your research, your second draft should be pure pleasure. Go back over your work word by word, and line by line. Use your character sketches to make sure everyone is doing and saying the things they should – or at least, in the way they should. Season your writing with a dash description, and a lot of character development. Let your fictional people drive their story on. Crank up the conflict. Make them laugh and cry, and you’ll make your completed story a guaranteed page turner.
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