Shooting blanks

So. Here we are. The first chapter. I have so much to say! The words are all tumbling over each other in my mind, just waiting for their chance to come out. I open my laptop in high spirits. I load up Google Docs. And then…

And then … where did they go? The words were right there a minute ago.

The blank page ate them.

Put one word in front of the other.

Anything at all is going to kill the blank page and create the opening I should need to dive in. Sometimes I paste in a paragraph of nonsense text before I even try to start writing, because I’ve met me and know some of my quirks. If I’m feeling really cheeky I will just keep doing that until I’m starting in the middle of the page.

It’s behavior hacking, plain and simple. It’s what makes us mentally stumble out of a programmed response when we say “How are you?” and someone answers “I ate a whole birthday cake.” Because we didn’t expect it, their reply snagged our attention away from the script we had been subconsciously performing.

I want to fail out of going buhhh for the next hour, so I break my brain’s paralysis with nonsense called lorem ipsum.

Why use nonsense text? It just works for me. As a programmer, I’m kind of tuned in to ignore it. We use it to fill space in new websites because at a glance it looks like real copy. If I show a client two designs — one with text about cookies, the other about snakes — then they can’t help but have a reaction based on the content and not the container I’m trying to show them. In my writing, lorem ipsum isn’t going to flavor what I’m thinking when I walk into a new scene.

Here’s one great lorem ipsum generator if you want to give this a try. There are several good ones out there.

Parenting 101.

If nothing is coming to me, I look inward. Right now I’m keyed up. I know it’s because I’m publishing all of my drafts here, so today is an easy solve. I’m afraid.

They won’t like it.

Now that I’ve defined it, I can grin and bear it. Of course it’s not going to be good. It’s a draft. There will be moments of both failure and brilliance, because even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Right now I need to stop being self-centered and watch the characters show me all that stuff they told me about during plotting. Be a good story-parent. So, I firmly mark a check in the box that says “I will do my Level One best” and move on.

The spice must flow.

Another brain hack I like for new scenes is setting the stage. Even if I’m at my desk in a busy house, I can slip on some headphones and listen to YouTube. If I’m writing a dark action scene, Dmitri Shostakovich is my man. That heavy brass section just heaps up the tension.

Cinematic playlists work great too, and I really love environmental noise playlists. It’s super fun to write a bar scene with tavern noises playing. Ditto for forest scenes and sword fights. Sometimes I’ll hear a sound that triggers a memory, and I suddenly remember what the country air tastes like right before it rains. Then I take the win and write that shiz down.

Everyone has their own tricks. What are yours?

What do you think?