You need to think like a survivalist when you start out on a writing adventure. The only goal in this first draft is to survive.
The key to surviving your writing project is all in the preparation. Traditional survivalists are a sturdy lot who know what they are getting into before they step out into the wild. Author survivalists can learn a thing or two from their outdoorsy cousins, like what to bring when you take that fist step into the frozen word tundra.
The Author Survivalist Backpack:
The basic tools of survival are adapted from the items found in a survivalist backpack. The best part is you don’t need to be like Bear Gryls and drink your own urine, unless you really want to. If you do go down that path, please keep it to yourself and do not share with the rest of the class, thank you.
Map: Every quest starts somewhere and hopefully you have an ending for your novel, or short story, in mind. Your map map not be a fully rendered outline with markers for each step on your journey and that’s fine. My map might only have the beginning, ending and a few key waypoints along the way. Without some kind of map, you may end up wandering in the dark reaches of the keyboard jungle forever. The deeper you go, the loster you get. (I like loster, it should totally be a word)
Fire Starter: The outdoorsy types will bring something to light a fire to keep warm, signal a plane, or cook that freshly caught wood rat. The author survivalist will burn away distraction, torching Facebook and Twitter feeds to focus on the story work. Fire is also purifying. Burn away the self-doubt and the urge to edit as you write. Follow the path of the smoke and create.
Water: Stay hydrated. Coffee, Scotch and Cabernet are acceptable means of writer support.
Rope: Don’t bring enough to hang yourself — because you’ll want to. Instead use the rope as your plot line. A knot here, or a couple of inches there, doesn’t make for a very strong story. Use the plot line rope to bind you story together in one continuous thread from beginning to end. You can always find the rope and give it a tug for momentum on your travels.
Flare Gun: The flare gets attention. Don’t be afraid to send up a flare from time to time to take a step back from that box canyon you’ve written yourself into. The flare is a small pause, to refocus on your story’s direction. Did you wander away from the path? Recalibrate your compass and head off in a new direction that will put you back on track. If that means a new character, or ending one, you get to decide what works best to navigate your trail in the wilderness. In the event of a writing emergency, your chair cushion may be used as a flotation device.
Don’t give up on your journey. Keep moving and survive.
What else would you put in your author survival backpack?