Monday, September 27, 2010

A Blank Page

If you haven't got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you'll only have to throw away the first three pages.
- William Campbell Gault


The day we finish our stories, polish our queries, and actually enter query wars is HUGE for us. It is an emotional high, full of celebration and pride and a dash of terror. Then what?

I struggle with what comes next - a blank Word document waiting for a new idea. But...but...but...what if I don't have an idea? What if it isn't good enough? What if I can't develop strong enough characters this time, an interesting plot, a setting that says come in and stay a while?

It's time. I need to get past my apprehension and just do it. I envy those of you who have two or three books "growing" at the same time; who know exactly where to go next and how to get there.

How do you tackle the blank page after finishing a manuscript?

34 comments:

Diane said...

I LOVE that quote at the top. Great to chew on and think about. Happy week! :O)

SusanneWrites said...

I find it difficult to focus on something new after I've spent months writing and revising a ms. I'm in that situation right now, though the pages aren't really blank since my WIPs have 8k and 22k, but it's still difficult for me to get into them. I'm still too focused on my previous ms.

Valerie Geary said...

Great quote! It's so very true.

Recently, I started a "no pressure" notebook. It's a place for me to just write whatever bits of fiction come to mind without feeling the pressure of: editing, submission, publication. I write long hand so it helps with my inner perfectionist. (It's much harder to go back and change something when you're working with pen and paper.)

Sometimes stories or ideas or sentences in the No Pressure notebook develop into something bigger, into something I want to send out and publish. Sometimes not. But so far it's been very useful and I've begun to gather many ideas for later...so as never to have a blank page. (Or something.) :)

Brenda Drake said...

Wow, my blog post today is similar to yours. I've finally decided to stop tweaking my last project and started my new one. It felt awkward at first but now I'm on a roll and loving the new project. I think you just have take a deep breath and plunge in and before long your backstroking through a new project. We all have to move on at some point or else we'll never grow. Great post! :D

Crystal Cook said...

I love that quote up top! That I guess is what I do, just write something, anything. Even if I have to cut the first 5,000 or so words :)

Good luck!

Conda V. Douglas said...

I write my first loves for a bit, short stories--I have tons of short story ideas and it gets the novel juices flowing.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I don't know that I've ever really had a problem with the blank page. My problem comes with letting the old ms go. I love it so much, and I'm such a perfectionist that I keep thinking I can do more for it.

Carolyn V. said...

I start by outlining my next book. So I'm not sitting around waiting for acceptance. =)

Quinn said...

I feel like I'm betraying the book I just finished if I jump into a new idea too soon.

It took me a year after my finishing my first book to have a new idea. To be fair, I planned the next four books of the series that first book will be a part of during that time. While writing the second book, two ideas came to me. Now I'm trying to decide between them.

Jonathon Arntson said...

Well, I've never finished a ms, but I have stared at the first blank page hundreds of times. For me, the beginning of a new story just flows. It floods, really. I cannot contain all the words trying to get out of my head and I lose many of them. I hope to finish one of these projects someday, so that I can move onto the next one. I may never face a blank page again. Ha, yeah right.

Gail said...

My attack on the blank page starts by getting away from the computer and either reading or going out somewhere to observe people. I have a folder called "Writing Snippets" and if the beginning of an idea comes, I put it in there. Any additional thoughts on plot lines go on the same page. New idea? New page.
This can be done on paper or the computer.
When it's time to start a new book, you'll feel it!

Angela said...

How do I tackle the blank page? I procrastinate, then procrastinate, then procrastinate some more--until I've gone so insane with boredom that I have no choice but to write something.

Justine Dell said...

I've got so many different story ideas lined up, I might actually do cartwheels if this happened to me. LoL.

~JD

C. N. Nevets said...

This is why I usually start my next project or two before the first one is wrapped up. That way I don't have to deal with it. :)

Melissa said...

I'll let you know when I finish my Manuscript.....

Bethany said...

I have one or two ideas waiting in the wings. One that's been fleshed out for the most part, just needs to be finished and the other I've written several pages and am considering what I'll end up doing with it. It's nice having those stories "on hold" because it means I have something to work on. Sometimes I have more than one idea, sometimes ideas don't seem to come.

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh how I love that moment. The chance to start fresh and go where your heart and mind wish:)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

This is why I think it's important to keep journals or ideas...then you won't have a blank page. You'll always have something to refer to. But if you are truly stuck...read, watch movies, listen to music, people watch and have pen and paper ready...even reading blogs can give you ideas.

You never know when your next idea will POP up. :)

Heidi Willis said...

I had that same problem when I finished Some Kind of Normal. The waiting process in hearing made me unable to keep moving forward for a while.

I've discovered that in writing I always get "bright, shiny" new ideas right about the 10,000 word mark when it's getting hard. Now I keep lists and brief synopsis of those and let them grow while I push through the one I'm working on... then when the time comes, I'll have several great ideas already brewing.

L. Hild said...

I recently experienced this, and I went on a reading binge for about a month. Instead of reading and writing/revising each day after work, all I did was read. As I did, a new idea started forming, but I only jotted down the random thoughts I had about it. A month and lots of books read later, I felt like I had enough ideas for the new book to get started.

I've discovered that I'm most likely to not finish a piece if I don't have enough of it figured out in the beginning, which is why I decided to wait a bit rather than jumping straight into the next manuscript.

Best of luck with the querying and your next work!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I took a long drive to Wisconsin. Seriously. Hours in the car with nothing to do but think of stories? Believe me, something will come. Just make sure you can pull over with your notebook to write it down! :)

Jen Daiker said...

I have different experiences, sometimes it's as easy as opening the blank page and starting again. Other time it's weeks without writing a thing, just devouring books off my TBR list until the thoughts come back through my head.

Exhausting a lot of times, just thinking about it.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Another fabulous quote. I can always count on you to inspire me with wise words. :)

Eric W. Trant said...

If I'm really stuck, I'll use the method Bradbury swore by: random word associations.

Or I'll write a snip of whatever I feel like writing.

Or I'll re-read some of my old stuff, or visit an old story that I had left half-baked (and don't we all have those!).

Or I'll blog, like I'm doing now.

Or I'll say Screw it! and either go back to bed if it's early in the morning, or have a beer if it's late enough and rent a man-movie, then go to bed.

I think most people use this last method.

- Eric

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

So far, I've had my ideas for my next stories pop up before I finish the current one.

Tara said...

I have new ideas pop into my head/dreams while writing a WiP, but I jot them down and toss them aside. I cannot work on something new while I'm revising. And it seems I'm always revising. If I ever deem it finished, I have the 2nd book of the series to write. I have no idea where it's going to begin, but I know plenty of stuff that will be happening in it ;)

Mary Aalgaard said...

So far I haven't finished a ms before I've started a new one. One is just a little farther along than the other. Then, a new idea comes into the picture. My problem is staying focused on one long enough to finish it!

Susan R. Mills said...

Just start typing! That page will eventually be filled with words, even if you have to discard most of them later. :) It's all about the writing.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Not really happened to me, but I know I will have a huge gap between projects, while I muster up courage to start the new one.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Shannon, sometimes a little R&R helps. Some blogging. Reading . Wait a minute, that's it -- reading! That ALWAYS inspires me to write more. And that's my FINAL answer. :)

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Shannon, sometimes a little R&R helps. Some blogging. Reading . Wait a minute, that's it -- reading! That ALWAYS inspires me to write more. And that's my FINAL answer. :)

Lori W. said...

Hope your muse strikes soon. For me, I'm always starting stories, but seem to have no control for when one takes over and demands to be finished. Congratulate yourself for finishing that one project, though. Woo-hoo!

Jenna Wallace said...

Research!! (Spoken like a true nerd, which I finally admit that I am.) I find researching my new idea to be so inspiring. An idea may be good, but doing the research invariably opens up new doors and avenues that make the idea great.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Shannon -

So far, I haven't struggled with this problem. My first book naturally led into my second. By the time I got to the end of the second, the character from book three made a pest of herself.

I also have another project unrelated to the above trilogy.

Blessings,
Susan :)

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