Blank White Page

by limebirdster

So I’ve just started a new project. I wrote a short story, decided that the concept would work as a novel and so sketched out a basic plot and started a new document. I changed the font and font size from Times New Roman size 10 to Courier New size 11 and saved it under its working title. And then I was faced with the Blank White Page. Sometimes I write the title at the top but I’m not sure about the title for this one so all I have typed out is the number 1 and a full stop after it, for the chapter heading. And that’s it. Just one number and then vast amounts of Blank White Nothing.

The book that I’ve finished writing is 244 pages long. So I’m pretty much looking at 244 pages that need to be filled. With something. Words, preferably. I do not like the Blank White Page and I’m pretty sure that the Blank White Page does not like me. I think it’s mocking me.

Past experience tells me that I have three different ways of dealing with the Blank White Page. The first is to just not be afraid of Blank White Page. It has no power over me, I am the writer, I will fill its nothingness with words and it will be blank no longer. I get the feeling that Blank White Page is a bigger enemy of the planners than for those who prefer to wing it. The Limebird pantsers probably all embrace this first technique with open arms but I usually call it the My Deadline Is Coming Up So Fast That If I don’t Write Something, Anything, Soon, It’s Going To Sail Right By Me And I’ll Have Missed It Completely Technique. It was the technique that I frequently used at the end of a semester when all of my assignments were due in the same week. So I suppose, for me, this isn’t really not being afraid of the blankness, but actually being more afraid of something else so that I forget about the blankness.

The second technique is to open a new document and just type as much as I can of whatever happens to come into my head, even though I know as I’m writing it that it isn’t any good, just to have something down on the page. I’m going to call this technique the Running From The Light Switch To The Bed At A Dead Sprint To Avoid The Monsters Hiding Underneath The Bed Technique. Pretty much all of what I write when using this technique will end up being deleted or edited to be completely unrecognisable, but it does solve the immediate Blank White Page problem.

The third technique is the one that I’m current using. This technique involves ignoring Blank White Page completely and writing the first chapter out by hand in a notebook and then typing it up so that Blank White Page becomes the first chapter about ten minutes after I start typing. I’m going to call this technique the You’re A Coward Limebirdster You Have Not Really Defeated Blank White Page But You Do Appear To Have Actually Written Something So I Won’t Go On About It Too Much Technique.

The only drawback with the third technique is that my handwriting is so big that one page in my notebook becomes about a paragraph when typed. It’s also quite difficult to add a sentence into a paragraph, especially if you’re writing on a page with no margins which for some reason I am. But it does work, I have written something, I have started.

So what about you? What techniques do you use when faced with the Blank White Page or does Blank White Page not scare you? And are the pantsers as afraid of Blank White Page as the planners?

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20 Comments to “Blank White Page”

  1. I tend to get in a rhythm with my writing, once I have enough research done, it just pours out across the page. Poetry especially.

  2. I never start with a Blank White Page. I never open a document and stare at it, thinking, Help! Now what am I going to write? No, I write my stories in the shower or while I’m brushing my teeth or while I’m lying in bed before I get up in the morning. Then I rush in, open that document, and start setting down what I have in my head before it makes my head burst. Or if I can’t do that right away, I use a little hand-held tape recorder to “write” into so i won’t forget what was in my head. I have never been able to come up with a story on demand. That’s why I’ve never taken a writing course and why I never participate in these Writing Challenges – write a story about chickens or a travel experience or something starting with the letter “Z.” My mind goes blanker than the page in those cases!

    • I can really relate to your method. The only annoying thing is when it comes to you in the shower and you have nowhere to jot it down. Then I keep chanting it round and round in my head so that I don’t forget it!

    • I’m a lot like that Lorinda, I tend to start composing pieces of writing in my head before I ever get to the blank page, whether it’s a blog post, a fiction piece, an article. A large amount has already been mentally written before my hands ever hit the keys.

      • I do that chanting of the words in my head, too, because when you’re in the shower, you can’t just jump out and grab the tape recorder or a piece of paper and a pencil! But it usually doesn’t work – by the time I’m able to make notes, something else has intervened and the exact words are gone! Truly annoying!

  3. That’s a great post, Limebirdster, and very honest about what it takes to get started. It sure can be daunting to the point where we avoid writing anything. We all have that fear of the Blank White Page. On really bad days, we might not even want to deal with starting the grocery list, let alone a story 🙂 I’d say that many of us who started out with the pantser (organic) approach have become planners for this very reason … I have found that much of my writing now takes place in my head to the point that when I see the Blank White Page, my attitude is “Let me at it!” rather than “Yikes!”

    • Thanks David! I think it’s probably why I started planning, I was spending far too much time staring at the screen when I wasn’t sure where to take a story!

  4. I have done enough flash writing to feel comfortable with just starting to write and figuring out where it will head after I get a few pages down.

  5. LOL, I love your techniques. I keep an “ideas” file with lots of “starts,” so I just pick one that is screaming for attention and go from there.

    • Thanks Jilanne! That sounds like a good strategy, my ideas notebook is just full of single lines rather than anything substantial that I can actually start from, maybe I need to try fleshing them out a bit more!

  6. Speaking as a pantser — When I have an idea, the blank page doesn’t scare me. But when I can’t grasp an idea to give it a shape, then the blank page is daunting. These last few weeks, I have been daunted.

  7. Really like this post and it is interesting to see how other writers work and how they start their pieces. So far I’ve not been scared by the Blank White Page but that’s because I’ve been lucky enough to have some material in my head when I open the document. I’m sure my time will come!

  8. I’m a total pantser! Blank pages do give me fits, but I try to just start typing and see what happens.

  9. I do both.

    With short stories I often have the idea pretty much sorted and so I just have at it. Often I start out writing on my BlackBerry as it is with me all of the time, then, when it needs revision, I work on the laptop.

    For novels I am, since NaNoWriMo 2012, a complete convert to Scrivener. There is always something you can start with. In your case, Ster, you have a basic plot outline; so you could do draft chapter headings, a synopsis of each chapter, even a synopsis for individual scenes. All before you are technically confronted by that blank screen (and at that point you will have plenty to work with!).

    • I’ve tried writing on my phone but I just can’t do it, I always end up scribbling on a piece of paper instead!

      Thanks for the ideas, I do usually have a lot more notes than I do right now, it’s all a bit confusing because all of my notes are for the plot of the short story rather than for a longer piece and I haven’t quite worked out what I’m doing, obviously I need to spend a bit more time planning!

  10. When I can’t think of what to write, I write about not thinking of anything to write.

  11. I haven’t written a lot lately, so plenty of “dauntage” here. Yes that’s a new word, kind of like a railroad track delivers a lot of bumpage, hehehe. I have an idea in mind before I ever sit down and pull out the computer or notebook and pen. Otherwise I would stare all day long.

  12. Oh, I hate the Blank White Page! It’s just so intimidating. I hope you have many large notebooks primed for use.

  13. I don’t think handwriting is cheating. Writing is writing – how you choose to execute your craft is entirely up to you. I know people who only dictate, and someone else does the actual pounding of the keys.

    I think the start – Chapter 1 – is always the most difficult. That first sentence is meant to carry a lot of weight, so all the book-writing experts say. I’ve gone back and changed my first sentences a bunch of times, though, so I think it’s more important just to start writing.

    It sounds like you’re in the habit of writing “in order,” Ster. Is that true? Meaning, do you write your stories one chapter after another, as things happen, without skipping around to your favorite bits, and sorting out their order later? In that case, I think you just need to start from the beginning, whether it ends up being the beginning or not.

    Don’t be afraid to break rules. Just get that puppy started walking!

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