The Blank Screen

A Guest Post by Janice Sperry

There have been many occasions when I found myself staring at a blank screen, wondering how to turn my sparkly thoughts into words. The scenes in my head were amazing until I tried to write them down. So I made my thoughts less sparkly. Instead imagining cool scenes before going to sleep, I thought of how to word the first sentence. If something sounded good, I’d write it down with a pen. Sometimes they even made sense in the morning, but it shifted my focus from images to words. And it worked.

I recently met someone who had been working on world building and plot twists for twenty years, but hadn’t written anything yet. Drag the words out of your head. Rough drafts are bad. Accept the bad and embrace your flat scenes because horribly written words are a lot better than no words at all. Besides, editing is your friend.

Here are some examples of great beginnings:

My first example introduces the character while they do something interesting that also advances the plot.

Stealing eggs is a lot harder than stealing the whole chicken. —Janice Hardy, The Shifter

Right off, you know the character is going to get into trouble. The reader wants to know why is she stealing eggs and how does she know so much about stealing chickens? (Also, chickens are funny.)

The next example is a beautifully written hook for middle grade.

The sun was setting over the Atlantic, and as it ran like molten gold into the waves, a girl in a Pod Fighter ripped through the scene like graffiti sprayed across a landscape painting. —Emma Clayton, The Roar

Clayton starts the sentence with a beautiful scene and then ends it by spraying graffiti. The few kids that aren’t instantly hooked with the visual description will focus on two words: Pod Fighter.

Catch the reader’s attention and make wonder:

I crept behind the black suit of armor and slid the diamond necklace inside a hollow leg. —Janice Sperry, The Rebel Princess

The first sentence in my book lets you know right off that my character is not an average girl. Readers wonder if she is a thief and why there is black armor. They wonder why she is hiding jewelry and how much trouble she is about to get in.

So next time you are thinking about your book in the shower (and who doesn’t), start putting words together instead of scenes. More words will flow once you get past that hook.

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Author of The Rebel Princess, wife, mother, and kitten tamer. You can follow Janice's blog at www.comeoutwhenyourehappy.blogspot.com where she blogs about crafting, books, and whatever amuses her at the moment.


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