So let’s say you’re reading about how to write. Don’t we all at some point? There’s hundreds of books and self-proclaimed magical methods for you to write your book better. They suggest all sorts of things: Have an imaginary conversation with your character, write a paragraph about the purpose of every scene, do a warm-up exercise by writing “Hello, blank page.”
Here’s the deal with all that—you’re not writing your story. You’re writing about your story, sure, but in the end, no matter how many warm-ups you’re doing, that book doesn’t get any longer. So let’s take a look at what’s actually going to help in the long run. These are especially important in a first draft, when you’re just trying to get a story down on paper—and that’s what’s really important.
#1 — Write A Short Synopsis
So here’s the deal. At some point in your story, you’re going to run dry. You’re going to get to the end of a scene, and get ready to start the next one, and then you’re going to stall. It happens to the best of us—you just don’t know what to write. And it’s not quite the same as writer’s block, either, because you have a sort of general idea of what should happen next, but the details just aren’t coming to you. This is where a synopsis comes in handy.
Synopses don’t have to be long. As a matter of fact, I prefer to keep them under two pages—the type of thing you might see in a review of your finished book. They shouldn’t take way long, either. If you have the story in your head all planned out, the best way to keep it flowing when you’re actually writing is to have a hard copy to reference. Sure, you can still change things, but having a plan is a huge help when you’re not sure what to write.
And for those who don’t like knowing the ending of their books before they write them? That’s totally fine. Write a synopsis that encompasses as much or as little of the story as you like—just make sure it will give you a framework to write off of when you get stuck. Synopses are useful because they force you to get over writer’s block. You can’t have writer’s block if you’re following instructions, right? So write yourself a set of instructions.
#2 — Distractions: Keep Them Reasonable
I get it. You get distracted. So do I. FaceBook, your cabin chat on Camp NaNoWriMo, or reading other beginner writers’ blog posts (case in point). And a lot of times, you’ll sit down to write your story but never actually get anything done because of those distractions. You argue that you need the distractions to keep you sane and, well, to distract you from the work of writing. And I agree—you do need them from time to time. But you also need to make sure they’re not keeping you from writing altogether. This is why you need to keep your distractions reasonable. If you want to do a little FaceBooking, set a ten-minute timer and then go back to writing when it goes off. If you’re on YouTube, limit yourself to two or three videos. But whatever your limit, make yourself adhere to it. If you catch yourself saying “Oh, I’ll just watch one more video,” then it’s time to write again.
#3 — Go Read Something Good
Writers are nothing if not good imitators. You’ll learn more by reading a good book than you will from a thousand of my amateur blog posts. Read your favorite author, your writing idol that you aspire to be like, or if you’re trying to be completely different and new, read some books that did that same thing in their time. Narnia and LOTR were some of the first books to popularize the whole dwarves-elves-humans setup. Harry Potter launched the young adult fiction genre to new heights. Or if you’re into movies, Star Wars essentially invented the space opera. You can get inspiration from things now considered classics—want to make your characters pop? Try skimming through Anna Karenina. Feel like your settings aren’t scenic enough? Grapes of Wrath has some pretty good passages for that. Or if you want to see how you can make things like history or research look more interesting, it’s not against the rules to read a little Percy Jackson or listening to a little Hamilton. There’s so much out there to learn from, and I’d say probably your best bet for having your future novel being well-read is to be well-read yourself.
END NOTE: It’s Your Writing, So Write It Your Way
Nobody is the same. Which is why you can’t possibly follow every bit of writing advice you ever read, and you should never feel like the way you already do it is the wrong way or the less-than-ideal way. The things I listed above are the ways I personally like to get past writer’s block, but they won’t work for everyone. If you’re really just not feeling a synopsis is appropriate for what you’re writing, then skip it! Don’t let something you see written by someone who’s not you force you to do something that won’t work for you.
Quoth Vsauce: “And as always, thanks for watching.”