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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | My Strategy: Never Leave the Next Page Blank

My Strategy: Never Leave the Next Page Blank

City  Tavern Ghost Tour

The historic City Tavern in Philadelphia, second stop on Philly’s Ghost Tour ~ photograph by Bob Salerni

It’s been three weeks since I added any new words to my WIP. This is due to a number of reasons: teaching a writing class at a college, the recent death of my grandfather and the subsequent need to help my mom clean out his house, an editorial deadline, and hosting our delightful French exchange student — which includes taking her to local tourist attractions we rarely visit ourselves. (Longwood Gardens, the Amish Village, a Philadelphia “Ghost Tour,” etc.)

Yesterday, I opened this manuscript with a little trepidation, considering how long it’s been, and used the Document Map to jump to where I’d left off: the end of Chapter 33.

To my relief, I discovered that the opening two paragraphs of the next chapter, Chapter 34, were already written. I thought I had done this, but with everything going on in my life lately, I hadn’t remembered for sure. However, as it turns out, before I closed this manuscript three weeks ago, I followed my usual procedure of writing the opening sentences of the next chapter.

The point was to make sure that whenever I opened the document again, I wasn’t facing a blank page.

Psychologically, this makes a big difference for me. Most of the time those few sentences are exactly what I need to get back to work – a jumping off point. I read my words and nodded. Yes, this is still how I need to start this chapter.

Although … one of the sentences was awkward. So I revised it.

Then I added one.

A little while later, I added a paragraph.

Then 950 more words …

Leaving myself something to start with has helped me on numerous occasions. What strategies do you have for getting back into a manuscript after time away from it – or even just facing the next chapter when you’re struggling and unsure about your story?


P.S. – The photo above has nothing to do with this post. I just thought it was really cool. Our visiting student has an interest in haunted places. Did she land with the right family or what? Later this week: The Psychic Theater at the Harry Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA!



16 Responses to My Strategy: Never Leave the Next Page Blank

  1. That exchange student is probably having the time of her life with your family.
    That was a smart idea to start the next chapter before quitting.

  2. mshatch says:

    She definitely picked the right family, lol. I have a similar strategy I try (the operative word being try) to use which is basically to leave off in the middle of someplace I’m anxious to get back to. That way I’m ready to jump back in when I come back.

  3. That’s a great idea about starting the chapter. I never thought of that.

  4. This is a good tip I’m going to have to follow. I hate that blank page feeling. And I am such a chicken, though a ghost tour sounds like it’d be a little tamer than a haunted house. Those I absolutely cannot do!

  5. Tiana Smith says:

    I try to do this too. Definitely helps!

  6. That’s a great tactic. I love it, and I’ll have to try it with my next draft.

  7. Linda says:

    Love this writing tip. 🙂

  8. J E Oneil says:

    I’m sorry about your grandfather. You and your family have my condolences.

    No blank pages sounds like a good idea. I wonder if it would work for me. And the photo is cool, too 🙂

  9. HI, Dianne,

    Very cool photo!

    That is a great way to leave a work in progress. I never though of that. I usually stop wherever I stop, no thoughts about it. I generally never finish a chapter and then stop, It’s usually in the middle of a chapter for me.

    I’m a panster. So I just go with it until I can’t… LOL,

    How fun to be hosting an exchange student. Visiting local attractions is a great way to see things we generally take for granted. Each city and town has SO much history to them. Even though America is a young country, there is still a LOT to learn about it. Enjoy the rest of your summer touring haunted places. SUCH FUN!

  10. Hilary says:

    Hi Dianne – sorry about your grandfather, and I’m glad you were able to be around to help your mother. The student sounds like she’s having a grand old time … and you’re always busy – which is the best way isn’t it.

    Leaving the page with the next thoughts ready to be continued makes absolute sense … and also if you have a to do list … the night before – tidy things up, work out what’s essential for the following day, and jot the three things down that need doing … at least the important ones will get ticked off.

    Enjoy the rest of the summer … without too many ghosts … the word Palimpsest came up in another article I was reading … your student could look for a variety of those – not the human kind … France will have loads of different categories …

    Cheers Hilary

  11. First off, I’m sorry about your grandfather. My guess is, you and your mother have been doing a lot of reminiscing and bonding while going through his house. It’s a tough job to do, and a tough experience, so it’s a blessing you’ve been able to do it together.

    I don’t know if this is your first experience hosting an exchange student or not, but it probably won’t be your last. Your current student is gonna have so much fun with you, she’ll spread the word, and there’ll be a list of kids a mile long who want to stay with you next time around.

    What a great strategy to start the next chapter to give yourself a kick-start when you get back to the manuscript! You’re a smart cookie.

  12. Julia Tomiak says:

    This is a great tip, especially as I hope to start the new WIP soon. There is nothing so daunting as a blank page, but it just takes a few baby steps to get started.
    I’ve got good friends in Philly and they took me to Longwood Gardens this spring – beautiful!

  13. Chuck Robertson says:

    I never thought of that. Common sense says to stop as soon as you have finished something. I’ll have to consider your idea.

  14. That’s a really good idea. I’ve heard the advice to always stop when you still want to keep writing, and I try to do that – I often stop in the middle of a scene, right when someone says a crucial line, so that I have something big to start with in the next writing session.

    And that picture really is cool. ^_^ Your student definitely landed with the right family.

  15. Beate says:

    It sounds like you’re having a lot going on. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandfather 🙁
    It sounds like fun that you get to go see places with the exchange student 🙂
    And it was an awesome idea to start the next chapter before ending a writing session. I’m happy for you you got so much more writing done after seeing that. I can’t say I’m writing a book but I’m writing my Bachelor’s thesis at the moment and I know now what it feels like to not know how to go on. I can’t wait till it’s done 😉

    Thank you so much for your sweet comment. I’m so happy to be back and to be catching up on everything 🙂
    Have an amazing weekend!

  16. Lexa Cain says:

    That’s such a smart idea. I’m always so thrilled to finish a chapter (and revise 2-3 times before sending to CPs) that I’m too busy happy dancing to think of the next chapter. And the opening lines of any chapter are super hard for me. “Awkward” is being nice. I bumble around trying to ground the scene, then put the character in the scene, briefly revisit what went before (plot developments, new goals), and it’s like feathers flying in a turkey shoot and I can’t grasp a one of them. If I started the beginning after finishing the previous chapter, maybe it would help. Thanks!