Inspired by Morgoth’s comments a few weeks ago on the Honourkeeper update, I thought a quick post about note taking was in order. Now, I’ve already discussed the benefit of having a trusty moleskin notebook at your disposal and using it to flex your creativity in a nice, workshop-type fashion – I’d now like to expand on that by talking about the virtues of post-writing day/period note making.
One of the most sage pieces of advice I ever read was ‘never finish off a chapter, always leave it open ended, so you can pick up where you left off on your next writing day’. I can’t remember where I saw this, I think it came from the Internet somewhere. A friend of mine who I used to study with when I was doing my HND in Media Production (long time ago…) printed it out for me when I was just taking my first, fledgling steps to becoming a writer. This statement totally rings true.
Looking at a blank page, it’s hard to find your inspiration sometimes, hard to get back into the ‘authorial mode’ (see earlier posts for an explanation of this). Reading back through what you’ve written always helps, and I recommend this to anyone (do it out loud, too – it’s enlightening how different it can sound, especially the dialogue) but even still, when you reach that end of scene or end of chapter where you finished, chances are you’ll hit a mental speed bump. That’s the thing about endings; they put a stop to things, even your creativity sometimes.
So follow the advice, leave a bit unsaid or even finish off a chapter and deliberately start the next one – even if it’s just a paragraph and even if it’s not that great. You’ll find (well I do, anyway) that this tacked on bit of writing or trailing end of a chapter or scene acts as a potent springboard to get you into your next writing day with the minimum of anguish.
It can be tricky sometimes (and I know a few folks who’ll attest to this – right, Steve? ), when facing that dreaded blank page, to know how to get going again. This method works pretty well in my opinion. Try it at the very least.
So, what was I saying before I digressed into a mini-treatise on the virtues of never leaving a blank page? Ah yes, note taking, but not the moleskin kind this time. Writing the next bit of a chapter or starting the next scene isn’t always for everyone. You might have built yourself up to a certain point, devoted all your thinking time and planning to end of a section and no further. In these cases, writing an additional chapter or even leaving one trailing to be finished later just doesn’t happen, and guess what – you’re left with the blank page.
Fear not, I have another suggestion, one that I sometimes employ as a surrogate for the whole write an extra bit/leave a bit hanging method, or use in addition to. It’s fairly simple. Type some notes. Sounds a bit rudimentary doesn’t it. Here’s the trick. This stuff is just stream of consciousness material. Don’t worry about your spelling or your grammar or if you type so fast you make loads of errors. It doesn’t matter. In this moment, let your ideas flow. It can be dialogue, the odd line of description, even a rough scene or chapter map for what’s coming up. I do it all the time and I find it really useful for structure and framing the next scene. If I really like what splurges out of my mind and on the page, if I really get on a roll, I might even write that scene or cut and paste later when I return to the page.
What all these techniques have in common is that they are designed to stimulate the creative part of the mind, enable you to re-engage with the ‘writerly‘ part of your consciousness. It’s like any exercise – you need to warm up first. These are just ways to help you do that.