How to write when you've got nothing to say
I was never prolific. I used to spend hours staring at a blank screen bleeding words like blood from a stone which I would end up deleting the next day. Why? Because I made the mistake of thinking that writing was all about producing words.
Well, it is about producing words, but only in so much as that's the medium we've chosen in which to convey our ideas. Words with nothing behind them are meaningless.
Now when I sit down to write I never have enough time to get down what I need to. Every minute I spend at the keyboard I've got words coming out as fast as I can type them, and that's not because I'm producing pantsesque stream of consciousness stuff, it's because I've got a conveyor belt of ideas shunting stuff forward.
But it wasn't always so. Here's what I learnt the hard way.
You need to start working that story before you sit down to write it. You know you've got a big scene to start when you get home from your job, so spend lunchtime thinking about it. Questions are a good way to activate your imagination. What is going to happen in this scene? Why is it going to happen? What do my characters think about it and how will they react?
Go crazy with your thinking
Ideas are cheap, especially when you're not doing 'proper writing' – by which I mean staring at your manuscript. So when you're sitting there at lunch with your chosen recording tool, give free rein to your ideas – you can always delete them afterwards, but that crazy idea just might be the one thing that will raise your story from the mediocre to the magnificent.
Have an ideas notebook
In which you write everything down. Not just ideas for the current WIP, but anything that comes to you. Goes without saying, right?
Have at least two projects on the go
Then if you've dried up on the one, you can go to work on the other.
There's always something else to do
Writing involves a whole heap of stuff – creating ideas, capturing them, crafting, editing, critiquing, researching agencies and publishers, learning about the craft – there's always something to do if your imagination goes AWOL. There's really no excuse not to write, and chances are when you start editing that other story that's been in the drawer for a while, you'll start activating ideas for the WIP too.
Let's get to it.