How to Reach Clarity in Your Writing

For me, the hardest part of a first draft is the middle. I start with a very clear beginning and I know exactly where the story is going. But the drift of space in the middle of the story, the how and why a character gets to where he is going is something that remains a mystery until I come to it. Even then, I can find myself staring at a screen, hoping inspiration will come. I know by now that waiting for inspiration is a thankless task, and that sometimes you just need to make it happen. Here are some techniques I’ve developed for reaching clarity and working out those awful middle parts that trip me up again and again.

1. Character Diary. A tried and tested NaNoWriMo technique can be forgotten the rest of the year. Pick a point in the story that you need to develop, and write your character’s view or experience of this point. Free writing can produce all kinds of ideas that can be a starting point for developed plot strands. Start exploring your character’s ideas, and see where it takes you.

2. Clear your head. Sometimes we are so caught up in getting to the end of the story that we can’t focus on the scene we’re writing. If you’re stuck on one train of thought, go out for a walk, talk to your family, do some exercise. It will give you the space you need to think.

3. What if? Examine the plot. What if instead of going to the coffee shop and meeting the handsome stranger in the next scene, your character goes swimming instead?

It can be hard to see clearly when you’re in the throes of a first draft. Using some of these techniques can help the creativity to flow again.


Helen Dring is a fiction writer from Liverpool, England. She is studying for an MA in Creative Writing and is currently writing her first novel. She likes fairy tales, ghost stories and modern history.

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