I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve watched a student staring at a blank page, frozen, locked up, paralyzed by writer’s block. I’d crouch down to be at eye level and ask what was wrong. And I get some variation of:
I can’t think of a title.
I don’t know how to start.
I don’t know where the story begins.
Have you ever done this? Yeah, me too.
A blank page can be a frightening thing to behold, especially for a new manuscript. There’s so much potential for greatness. And failure.
So how do you get unstuck?
Here’s a permission slip to start in the middle. Or at the end. Or with some random scene or chapter that you’ll include who know’s where.
Remember that titles often aren’t chosen until the work is written. You don’t have to start with the introduction or the first scene. Many times it’s actually easier to write the introduction after you’ve written the rest of the book. And if you’re writing fiction, you may need to dive deep into the conflict of your story before you can figure out exactly where it should begin for your reader. In fact, there’s a technique called in media res, that opens a novel in the middle of the story.
Start writing wherever your creativity is directing you, whether that’s the final scene in your thriller or the anchor chapter in your self-help book.
Writing software programs make it easy to move text around, so don’t worry about the dangers of losing important text with a copy-and-paste job gone wrong.
I know lots of folks rave about Scrivener because it’s so easy to move material. I’m still a Microsoft Word fan myself. Using the headings feature and the navigation pane, it’s a breeze to move text in a Word document. This article shares just how to do that (and even links to how to find the navigation pane and apply heading styles if you need to start there).
So don’t worry about starting at the beginning. Just write. You’ll figure out the order, or nail down the timeline, eventually.