Writing tip: getting started

Starting a new writing project is always fun for me because I spend a lot of time thinking about my story while waiting in line at the post office or stopped in traffic on the freeway. But at some point I have to stop thinking in my head and start thinking on the computer. Which means actually putting my thoughts down and developing them into an original TV series, a pilot script, or a novel. (Writing a script or breakdown [outline] for a soap opera is a different process for me, one which I’ll discuss in another blog post.)

Sitting in front of the computer is the easy part. But how do I start writing and stop checking my Facebok page, my e-mails, and the Internet for interesting news stories? I mean, even as I started to write this post, the doorbell rang and I opened it to the FedEx man who delivered a box wrapped in lovely gold paper with a matching sparkly gold bow. How could I not open it immediately? (It contained a fabulous bottle of wine and a much-needed credit card holder from Tiffany & Co.–a thank you from my Sony bosses for winning a writing Emmy on Days of our Lives.)

Now I have to send thank you e-mails to the Sony bosses and call my mom in Florida because I share everything in my life with her as soon as it happens. But, then again, it’s another distraction and I haven’t even gotten to the heart of my writing tip yet, have I?

See how easy it is to get distracted from writing?

So, when I know it’s time to start putting my thoughts to computer and, knowing how intimidating a blank screen is (though, frankly, even with words on the screen I’m intimidated), I ignore e-mail, Facebook, phone calls, and the Internet and I just start writing. When I’m beginning a project, I put down all the ideas that were popping up in my head while I waited in line or was stuck on the 405. And then I keep writing, like stream of consciousness, asking myself questions about character and plot, finding answers or even writing that I don’t have the answer–yet. I don’t censor myself, I don’t second guess myself, I don’t look for the right answer, or even the best answer. I just write.

And I don’t stop until I’ve written five pages whether they be good, bad or indifferent. Some days I write those five pages in five minutes, other days in five hours. But tough. I stick with my five pages per day, every day (I work weekends) and eventually (sooner rather than later actually) the pages reach a coherent conclusion and I’m ready to write my novel or script.

That doesn’t mean I have the answer to every question. What I do have is an overall structure to my story: strong characters with goals they wish to accomplish, antagonists, as well as obstacles that prevent my protagonist from obtaining his or her goal. As I begin writing I often go back to that original stream of consciousness document and look for answers to more questions that popped up as I was writing my script or novel.  If the document doesn’t have the answers, or spur me to come up with the answer, I write another five pages a day until I have it.

By not censoring myself, I find that the document is my favorite part of the writing process. And it makes the actual script and/or novel writing more enjoyable as well.

So, if you’re really serious about writing, sit down and begin writing five pages, seven days a week. You’ll find it’s not as difficult as you thought!

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