The Blank Page

I finished writing an extraordinarily difficult story last week. It took far longer than it ought, and affected me far more in the real world than I wanted it to. I had to write it, though. Not just because it’s going into But Not Broken, which is scheduled for release on Valentine’s Day (and oh, yes, am I ever cutting it close on that deadline!) No, I had to write it because a long time ago, when I was a different person, I made myself a promise. I swore that I’d use what I’d gone through to write, and to help others who might find themselves caught in the same trap I had. If I can give someone the tools to escape… and it begins with the internal work, which fiction has a unique ability to model for the reader through the characters as they think, speak and act.

Having done that, I’d promised my brain ‘something fun and light and fluffy!’ to write next. However, I also have deadlines. Yesterday, after a short writing break, I opened the file of the story I need to finish by the end of the month. I stared at what I’d written before. Ok, brain, time to make with the words.



Time to try the blank page trick. Amanda Green taught me this years ago. You open a file in your preferred writing software (I tend to write in Google Docs, because I can then access it from any device, up to and including my phone. Why yes, I do occasionally write on my phone, thumbs flying. It’s not ideal, but if it gets the story safely out of my head and into electrons, I’m going to do it). You stare at the page for a minute, but no longer! Then, you start typing. No stopping now to edit, just write whatever flows from brain to fingertips.

(image by Cedar Sanderson, rendered with MidJourney)

Lizzie took a deep breath, the rich scent of coffee filling her nostrils. Now that she was awake enough to process, she could hear the gurgle of the coffee maker. It always did this as it finished a pot, a death rattle and then a curl of aromatic steam that would summon her from the other side of the house…

She sat bolt upright in her bed, her blood freezing in her veins as the adrenaline of fear rang through her entire body. She was alone in the house. Who had started the coffee brewing?

From the darkest corner of the room she heard a warm chuckle of amusement, followed by a dark, velvety voice, “Good morning, bubbaleh.”

His voice was as thick as cream, but that twang of old New York in his accent. Elizabeth Maximovna Panchenko flopped back into her warm blanket with all the grace of a beaching walrus.

“How did you find me?” She demanded of the ceiling, looking up at the pale blur over her head.

There was a sniff worthy of any Jewish mother, conveying all the pain and sorrow her progeny inflicted on her.

“Nevermind, that was a stupid question to ask. I should ask instead, why did it take you so long? I moved into the house a week ago. I closed on the house a month ago! I thought a domovoi was supposed to move in right away, nu?”

(image by Cedar Sanderson, rendered in MidJourney)

Well, that gets me started! I have no idea where that came from… no, scratch that. I know what was going on in my head, at least a little. Russian fairy tales have seeped into my bones from the first – literally, the first book I owned was a Christmas gift of illustrated Russian Fairy Tales. I love that book, and have managed to hold onto it, a feat in itself as I’ve moved a lot. The house spirits, the domovoi, I’ve written into several tales at this point. So those are both kind of my ‘default’ setting. Coffee, also, because I’m writing this while listening to the pot gurgle.

Some of the rest of it is me playing deliberately with tension, or at least attempting to. Happy, fear, annoyance, a cascade of emotions in less than 250 words. Now, what I can do with this hook? Don’t know yet. Might not do anything other than using it as a exemplar for the blog. Might run with it for the Pinup Noir anthology. Remains to be seen. I should probably plop it into a proper file instead of just abandoning it here in this post, though.

I can tell you that the images I’ve rendered will be a part of this woman’s story. As disparate as they are! So, try this next time you’re stuck. Take a blank page, an empty screen, and start writing words. Don’t worry about what you’re doing. You’ll figure it out once you let the top layer of anxiety break free and release your subconscious, also called the Muse.

12 thoughts on “The Blank Page

  1. That technique is both a blessing and a bane. I blame it for Myrtle the Evil Muse, at least with the current WIP that wasn’t planned but came about by remembering this trick and using now. Now I can’t get away from the story and go back to work on one of the other projects I should be working on.

    Now that I have that off my chest, where’s the rest of the story? I want moar please. Great hook and the possibilities intrigue me.

    1. Can Myrtle bud off? Because I feel like I have her clone some days!

      I am thinking I’ll make the story into my short for the Pinup Noir anthology. So there will be more!

      1. I have threatened to send her to other, er, “worthy” writers when she annoys me too much. VBG. And yay on there being more.

  2. Cedar was not quite three months old when she was given that book of Russian Fairy Tales, for her very first Christmas! Used to have a picture of her ‘standing up’ at the side of her crib, holding on to the crib rail for dear life, with that book in the crib beside her. At three months old. (She was a strong, and determined, baby — traits she’s retained through her whole life!)

  3. My mom used a writing trick like that. She called is spew. Don’t even look at what you’re writing, just keep typing until its all there.

    I’ve found its even best to turn off spell check entirely. Those little red squiggles everywhere are just distractions and you can always run it later in the edit.

  4. Hmm, seems to have a few anachronisms among those pictures. I look forward to seeing how you fit them all in. Not to mention your domovoi dealing with the future . . .

  5. I like picture three, perfect likeness! [smiles, pats horse] Although, just for the record, I never rode with my hair loose. It’s like riding in the back seat of a convertible with your hair loose, or on a motorcycle. You do it once. Never, ever, ever again!

    I tend to have too many loose ideas, rather than a lack of them. I have used “look at Renaissance portrait, describe character” as a way to kick ideas into gear. What comes usually has 0 bearing on the art, but it gets things moving.

  6. LOVE it, nice work, both on the art and the writing. I too wonder how you’re going to get the anachronisms to work… Hey, maybe she’s SCA?

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