Think, Dammit, Think
By S. C. Green
Let’s say you’ve just finished your novel. You’ve got the query letters out, maybe even a partial or full manuscript being looked over. What do you do in the mean time?
Simple, right? That’s not always the case. You’ve spent the last several months, if not years, perfecting your characters and their exploits, loving them, nurturing them, killing them. Sometimes it’s not easy to pick up another story and go. Even if you’re writing a series, it’s not a bad idea to try your hand at something else. I mean, what if that series never gets picked up? Do you really want to be five books in and realize nobody wants to buy it? Spread it out.
First of all, you’re remembering to write at least 500 words a day, right? Of course you are. That’s half the battle right there. Now the trick is to shake that brain of yours up a bit. Throw it off and make it think. Here are a few things that work for me:
1. Writing prompts
These are good to get the ink flowing. Typically a writing prompt will consist of a line or two that presents a “What If” scenario. It’s then left up to you to play it out. There are a number of sites online that offer writing prompts, like here, here, here, and that’s right, here. The only thing I don’t like about writing prompts is the ability of the writer to skip the prompts he or she doesn’t like to go to one that’s more within his or her comfort zone. How are you shaking things up by doing that?
This one feels shadier than the rest. That might be why I like it. The trick here is to listen with only half an ear. For one it helps keep you from looking like that crazy stalker guy at the coffee shop. You know who I’m talking about. Everyone does there best to sit the furthest away from him. Mainly you only want to get snippets of the conversation. Try to catch their tone. Then turn on the creative brain and fill in the rest. Why are they there? What lead to this coffee encounter? Why are they staring at you while you dictate their conversation?
3. Two-Second Channel Surfing
Be forewarned, this is hit or miss. When I was much younger, a friend of mine showed the wonder of flipping through the TV channels, spending no more than two seconds on each channel and hearing what comes out of it. This could lead to things like “That’s why I use… the captain’s on the… eco-friendly and safe for… come on down!” Then you can tweak it a bit and end up with, “Why, I used the captain of course. His eco-friendly approach made it safe for our group to come on down.” I have no idea what that means. But whether I like it or not, my brain is trying to figure it out. If I dwell on it enough, I’m sure a story would present itself.
This could also be done with the radio. Be careful, though. If you last longer than two seconds on any channel, you’re liable to end up watching instead of writing. That’s how your brain turns to mush. That’s what my mom always told me, so it’s must be true, right?
Those are just a few things that I do to stir up the gray matter. If it doesn’t work for you, then don’t use them. I’m by far not the end all, say all. I’m convinced of this however.
As a species, we love to solve problems. If you find a puddle on the floor, don’t you want to figure out what it is and how it got there? Whenever something falls outside of the norm in my little contained world, I have to know all about it. So if you stay within the problems that you already know the solutions for, what’s driving you to solve it again?
Shake it up.