I like to make 40 index-card sized boxes with electrical tape on a big board. Each card is a story beat, and I write out as many as I have. I love puzzles and this feels much more tangibly solvable than staring at a computer screen. Usually, the middle of the board is frustratingly light on cards. There’s no way around it though, I keep brainstorming, writing and rewriting until I have enough beats on the board.

It’s never the full 40—I stop when I feel confident in the path I’ve mapped out—but each beat must be essential. Meaning, I don’t write scenes that aren’t centered on conflict or move the story forward. If I can find a way to show new information about the character in each scene, awesome, but that’s not always essential.

Honestly, this whole process is mostly to minimize that gut-wrenching fear I feel every time I face a blank page. By doing all this work, I know, at the very least, what my first scene should be. I take the step, look at my map, and take another, and another. Then, when I get to the end, I tear up the map and the real work begins.

Tomorrow: The Writing Process: Rewrite Away