Stories are driven by characters. You must have lots of characters. Add another. Add another. Add another. You need more characters. You’ll never have enough characters. Why can’t you come up with more characters?
Set a timer and write until it goes off. Don’t check the timer! Don’t look at it! Promise me you won’t look at it. It will go off soon, okay? Just keep writing. It’s going to hurt, but you can’t look. You can’t look. You can’t look. It’s better this way.
Set aside time to write every day. Take time in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening to write. Think of everything that’s less important than writing. What’s a clean bathroom compared to well-crafted prose? What’s a mowed lawn compared to a finished draft? Your novel needs you more than your children do.
You can’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration floats around like a mist, circulating through one body and then drifting off to the next. It batters whomever it possesses; too powerful to be contained, too fragile to be free. You need to protect yourself from inspiration. Lock the doors, write by darkness. If you are gripped by inspiration, you’ll make something great but by god, at what cost?
There’s a pen on the table. And several more in the drawer. You find one in the hallway, more under your bed. You pour from a cereal box but your bowl fills with pens. The ink within them sings to you, a siren song, a writer’s anthem, begging you to take it and drag it across a page. You can’t possibly use them all but you are compelled to try. They keep appearing, keep appearing, keep appea-
Your characters should want something. In every scene, they should want something. These things should conflict. Study real people. Ask them about their desires. Kidnap them. Ask them what they want. Pit them against each other. What do you want?, you scream. You write their answers. All your characters want to go home. What sad stories you write.
The fluorescent light hums above you. You wonder how long you’ve been here. How long the cleaner had been moping that same aisle. How you are carrying so many notebooks. You go to the register and the cashier says, “107.” You don’t take out your wallet but instead, nod and you know that you’ve paid. You leave, laden with notebooks, more than you could ever fill.
Backup your work! Save it to a hard drive, download it across multiple computers. Write it into a notebook and then scrawl in on the kitchen wall. Drive to the mountains and recite it from the peak. The valleys will remember and the trees won’t let you forget.
You keep a pen and paper by your bed in order to jot down any late-night ideas you have. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re things like, “toast but with spark plugs” and you laugh at whatever sleepy state you were in when you wrote that. This morning you wake up to the words, the feel of lava slipping through your fingers, written in an unfamiliar scrawl. You don’t know what it means but you write it anyway. You write it compulsively. You travel, you travel to have an experience that allows you to write more accurately. You are never found.