Have a Place To Go in Your Writing

When writing, it is important to have a place to go. 

For instance, Ernest Hemingway always ended a writing session in the middle of a sentence, thus insuring that he had a place to go when he started the next day.  I've relearned this lesson over and over again in my own work.  If I wrap up a chapter all nice and neat, the next day I flounder about as I start a new chapter.  But if I leave myself some room to work, things go much easier.  

I am embarrassed to admit how many times I've scheduled a writing session, usually first thing in the morning because that is when I like to write fiction, and come to it unprepared.  And it is dangerous, for me at least, to be unprepared because that is when the internet and email beckon.  (I have this bad habit of clicking over to my email inboxes or yahoo home page when I stop to think.  I tell myself it is to give my brain a break, but…you can be the judge of that.)

When I am unprepared for a writing session, I lack clarity on what it is I want to write.  And clarity is one of the most important things, in writing and in life.  (Clearing is actually one of the seven practices of the prolific and prosperous writer that make up my Writing Abundance workshop.)  Without clarity, I have no place to go on the page.

But clarity can be ridiculously easy to come by, at least the kind required to know where you going when you turn on your computer and get ready to write.  It just takes a little advance thought.  So here are my best strategies for having a place to go on the page:

1.  Make Notes Ahead of Time.  In advance of your writing session, go through what info you've collected and make notes, either of where you are at or what you want to start.  If you know you are going to be working on a character sketch for your new novel, make a few quick notes.  Your amazing subconscious mind will take what you've written and start working on more.

2. Read Your Work Over.  Re-read what you've read, the night before if you can.  (This works especially great if you are going to get up and write first thing.)  Reading your work over reminds you of where you are, so you don't have to reinvent everything during your writing session.

3.  Make Like Hemingway.  Don't write to the end of a chapter.  Stop a few paragraphs short.  You can even go so far as to stop in the middle of a sentence, like Ernie did.  This automatically gives you a place to go.

4. Carry Your Work With You.  When I'm in the full heat of working on a novel, I carry the little spiral that I use for notes around with me everywhere.  Not only is it at the ready if I have an idea, but there's something about the act of carrying it around that acknowledges the novel's importance and keeps it front and center in my brain.

So those are my thoughts on always being ready.  What are yours?  Comment away.  And keep the phrase, have a place to go, in your fertile brains because I'm coming back to it tomorrow.

14 thoughts on “Have a Place To Go in Your Writing”

  1. Chapters? You’ve got the chapters mapped out even before you begin??
    Do you write your novel length stories in a hodge-podge manner, skipping forward and back in the event line, or do you write the novel sequentially, starting with ‘day one’ and ending at ‘the end’? And don’t say ‘it depends’ lol…Which way is most prevalent for you.

  2. Well…it depends. Kidding! It actually doesn’t. I do much better if I have a loose outline of some sort mapped out. And when I say loose, I mean loose. I’m trying to let go and do the jigsaw puzzle approach, wherein I write in the hodgepodge manner you describe but it makes me nervous and so far I’ve not been terribly successful with it. How about you?

  3. The story I’m working on now I’m doing in a hodge-podge manner, as a scene or conversation between characters comes to mind, I write it down so as not to forget it. I started in the middle, jumped to the beginning , then to the second act, third act, back to the middle etc…Short stories I can generally go from beginning to end…As to where I’ll break my current story into chapters, I have no idea, until its finished…They do tend to have lives of their own…
    Thanks for your answer…

  4. In many ways I think the hodge-podge manner is best because it is so freeing. I usually have an idea what is going to happen in each chapter, but in the last novel I went back and changed that all up for the sake of drama, mostly cutting them in half.

    What I love most about writing is its unpredictability!

  5. I’ve never really been able to make the ‘leave a sentence unfinished’ trick work for me. If there are words in my head they have to come out! What if the words for the end of that sentence were in my head yesterday but have disappeared today?

    Perhaps it’s because so often the stuff I write is pun based. If I don’t insert the end of the pun, then I might lose the ideal word I have floating around in my head. I figure, I can put it down today and if I think of something better tomorrow I’ll insert it then.

    But points 1, 2 and 4 I use all the time and they definitely work for me. Perhaps point 3 would if I had a little more self control and trust…

  6. Jessica, I can see how that would be a problem. To be honest, I usually don’t do the stopping in the middle of a sentence thing, but I do stop before I get to the end of a chapter or scene. And then I make notes so I know where I’m going.

  7. A great post there Charlotte. Overall, I usually find that I have the ending of a story first in my mind and then I think of a beginning and then it is a matter of filling in the middle.

    With the few novels I have written, I used to finish a chapter, then whils I had the idea for the next, right a few sentences to give me a place to go the following day.

  8. Charlotte, you have a wonderful way of breaking down the writing process. I always carry a little notebook to write down article ideas as they arise. I don’t always leave things unfinished in the evening – and I think it is harder to start in when everything is all wrapped up in a neat bow from the night before. I will try doing that from now on to see if that stimulates my writing more the next day.

    I record my dreams in the morning. I’ve kept a dream journal since I was 14. I find this is where I get many of my best ideas from. I also meditate every day and that also provides ideas and answers to many of my writing challenges.

  9. I am just relieved to know that there is really no wrong, or right way to begin a story. As I am doing this now..I find myself doing the hodge podge outlines. I start jotting down story ideas, which lead me into a character, then I start making notes on characteristics of that particular character.

    I like the hemingway idea. While I’ve not actually tried this (yet) I can see how it would benifit me like you say…gives you someplace to start the next time you sit down to write. And can actually lead as a motivator to get back at it rather than finding something else to fill the time. Creates some excitement in the process.

  10. Derek, I am sooo impressed that you start out knowing the ending. I often struggle with that. I may have a loose idea, like it is going to be a holiday scene, but that’s about it. And you are forgiven for the write/right snafu, my brain makes that mistake all the time.

    Angela, thanks for the compliment, I’m glad this blog is helpful. I wish I wrote down my dreams. I can’t believe you’ve been doing it since you were 14! Wow! I have written entire stories from ideas that came from dreams.

    D’Young, That’s a good way to look at it–creating some excitement so that you want to get back to the writing. If you try the Hemingway technique, let us know how it works for you!

  11. I sure will, Charlotte…..as soon as I can get a regular schedule for writing down! Which I am not holding my breath for….

  12. Pingback: A Place You Go | Charlotte Rains Dixon

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