At the start of a writing day many writers find themselves staring at a blank white page. It can offer a whole universe of possibilities or it can be a form of torture to the blocked writer.
As we sit down to that blank page sometimes we only start with an opening sentence, or we know something has to happen, and our fingers hover above the keyboard waiting for the words flow and the scene takes shape.
Other times we stare off blankly into space.
This is when our inner critic pipes up (or even sometimes our partners!) and says “I thought you were supposed to be writing.”
Now unless you are thinking about how badly your team went in the football or what you are going to cook for dinner that night, you are writing.
You’re part of a creative process called daydreaming. It’s something we often do as writers whether we are aware of it or not.
Daydreaming is an important part of the writer’s arsenal. It’s as important as any of the other tools but we often ridicule ourselves for taking the time to imagine our scenes before we write them.
Don’t succumb to this. The time you spend thinking about your story is just as valuable as the time you spend writing it.
The single best thing about daydreaming is; we can do it anywhere. If you’re waiting in a queue, stuck in traffic (or even in a boring meeting!) You can open that mental notebook and walk your characters though their upcoming scenes. You can daydream back-story that might never make it into the story just to see how your character reacts to life changing events. Or you can work through the climax of the book for a glimpse of how your character needs to grow and what they have to learn before they can play their role in the story.
I often find myself daydreaming scenes near the climax of the book when I’m still writing the first act. I do this because it informs me where the story is heading and how my characters are going to develop. I probably won’t write those scenes yet; I’ll make some notes of any clever dialogue or important points, but just because I’ve thought about them doesn’t mean I need to write them yet. It also doesn’t mean I won’t change them later.
You may even find that the scene drags, that your daydream is boring you, you’ve learnt something valuable before you sat down and stared at that blank page. If it’s boring move on to the next scene and see if you can work the information you thought that scene was supposed to convey into the next scene in your sequence. Let’s face it, it’s often said; “If it’s boring to write, then it’s going to be boring to read”. The same applies to daydreaming.
So now we’ve talked about why we might daydream a scene Let’s try it.
The first time you try daydreaming you may want to find yourself a quiet spot. Grab a notepad and pen and make yourself comfortable.
You’ll probably want to close your eyes
Immerse yourself in the world of your story. Let the setting come to life around you. Use all your senses to see, hear, smell, taste & touch the world of your story.
Then bring in your characters. Are they waiting for the catalyst of your scene to arrive? Or are all the players in the room, each with their own agendas and foibles. Watch how your characters react to the challenges you throw at them and those they throw at each other. Listen to what they say to each other and how they say it.
Open your eyes and jot down some notes.
Now find your keyboard and start typing.
You’ll be surprised how quickly your characters fill that white page. If you feel like the scene is missing something, close your eyes again. What do your senses tell you? Can you weave those delicious details into your scene? Watch your characters interact with the space they are in, is the setting intrinsic to the scene? Bring all that back to the page.
You may need to take a few dips into your daydream to flesh things out.
Look down at your writing and realise that what once seemed like a roaring expanse of white space is now filled with the complex and beautiful world of your story.
You’ve done it! Now do it again.