Howdy, Campers! Welcome to Week 3. If you find your pace slowing down, or your epiphanies drying up, don’t despair. The answers are out there. But you can’t find an answer without first asking a question. Today, NaNo Participant K.S. Trenten reminds us that sometimes questions are the answers:
Wish to put some words on the page? Here are some questions to ask yourself so you can take those first steps.
What do you want to write? A short story? A novel? An essay? This will give you an idea of how long to make your project (and define your word count goal).
If you’re writing a story or a novel, who is your main character? What do they want? This is a way of pushing your protagonist forward, reminding yourself of this. Their goal should be something that’ll hold your interest.
Allow them to tell you about what they want and why they want it. What events led up to this?
You may have an urge to start writing when you ask yourself these questions. Give into it. Let your character talk. Allow them to relive events which shaped them and their goals. They might decide to pick a fight with another character or simply rant. Allow them to.
Don’t worry if you’re coming in at the middle of the story. You can add the rest later.
Start thinking about the obstacles between your main character and their goal. Are the obstacles other characters? What are their goals? Are they connected with the events which shaped the main character’s goal to begin with?
Feeling like writing again? Go for it.
Don’t just answer the questions, explore them.
Let your main character collide with these obstacles, with other characters’ goals. Don’t worry if you end up with a bunch of disjointed story fragments. Keep playing with them and you’ll think of ways to connect them.
A third set of questions to ask yourself is: who or what supports your main character’s goals? Does your protagonist have friends who encourage them or an enemy who says the right thing at the right time? Is there a place or an object the main character draws strength or resolve from?
Explore all of this when you’re getting started. You may already have an idea of these things, but they’re worth considering when you propel characters who’ve been floating around your head into a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Are you still looking at a blank page? Don’t give up. Get up and walk away from your writing tools for a moment. Do something else while you think about these things. Just keep asking yourself these questions.
None of this may apply to you if you’re writing a poem or an essay. You may need to ask yourself different questions, such as:
What do you wish to communicate in your writing? What do you want to express?
What’s on your mind? A problem? Or a situation you’re trying to describe? How would you like your readers to react?
Never stop asking yourself questions. Answering them can get you to fill the pages when you’re stuck. They can renew your energy when it falters.
Remember, this is just the beginning. There are no constraints other than the word count. You’re not being edited. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing or shy away from anything that sounds bold, reckless, and beyond your limits.
You’re free to put what you want on the page.
Enjoy that freedom. Explore. Let your thoughts, feelings, and your characters take you where they want to go. Let them surprise you.
It may be frightening, beyond your control, and lead you into undiscovered territory. That’s half the joy of creative journey, finding out just what you’re capable of when you’re writing.
K.S. Trenten lives in the South Bay Area of California in the United States with her husband, two cats, and a host of characters in her imagination, all shouting out for attention. Her published works include Seven Tricks; A Symposium in Space; Fairest (part of the Once Upon a Rainbow LGBTQIA+ fairytale anthology) and At Her Service (part of the Once Upon a Rainbow 2 anthology); and The Closet (part of Queer Sci Fi’s Impact, a collection of flash fictions). She also offers weekly samples of her work on Mondays and Saturdays at the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration, Wednesdays at the Formerly Forbidden Cauldron, monthly blogs at cauldronkeeper.livejournal.com, rhodrymavelyne.dreamwidth.org, and is the author of Queer Sci Fi’s Sources of Inspiration column. She can be found on Twitter, tumblr, LinkedIn, and has a Facebook Author Page, which reflects the contents of both Cauldrons.