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Getting Unstuck Tip #3: Draw It!

Getting Your Novel Unstuck Technique #3

If you’re familiar with Anne Lamott’s book Bird By Bird, you’ll know one of her tenets is write a sh*tty first draft. Instead of getting bogged down in making a perfect first draft (whixh is impossible), writers should get the story down as quickly as possible (even if it takes years).

But even knowing this, we sometimes still get stuck. In my book coaching and in these writer tips, I’m pointing out tips and techniques that can help you get unstuck and draft novels faster.

In a recent episode of the Fiction Writer podcast, (entitled Don’t Write Your Next Draft, Draw It!), host G.K. Lamb described a technique he has used to overcome the blank page.

He drew his first draft.

Yes, you read that correctly: He DREW it.

He recently applied this technique while converting a short story into a short film script, but he found himself overthinking it, so he decided to come it at from a different angle. He already had story visuals in mind, but the act of writing was giving him anxiety. Instead, he drew a crude storyboard. He said the result help him create the script more fluidly—and it opened up the story for him in new ways.

To be fair, G.K. Lamb is no stranger to films and script writing, but many of us writer also have clear visuals in our minds. I know what you’re thinking: But, Chaunce! I suck at drawing!

No worries—the point of this technique isn’t to make you feel self-conscious or to improve your drawing skills. It’s about freeing your mind from anxiety and stuckness.

Everyone from fine-art filmmakers to cottage cheese advertisers use storyboards to layout the general “shots” of their scenes. Here are some random examples of storyboards in action.

Instead of trying to skecth each change in an imaginary camera’s perspective, what if you had a single, specific image in mind? Maybe the expression on your character’s face as he or she confronts a dark secret. Or maybe it’s the little cabin along the stream as seen from horseback on a high ridge by a ghostly lone rider. For this technique, you don’t need to sketch every change in camera perspective, like a filmmaker might. You just need to engage a different part of your brain and start drawing.

It could be a single moment, or it could be a setting, or it could be the scars on your character’s arms from his/her ceaseless attempts to escape writing duties. 

It’s a simple technique, but appeals to that creative child inside of us. Remember when you would draw alligators and rockets as a kid? You’re calling on that innate creativity and disengaging—for only ten or twenty minutes—that logical, perfectionist adult that’s towering over you with a red pen in hand.

The important thing is to try it, just for a short time, to see if the technique works for you.

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