A Prompt From: Jesse Q Sutanto
Aim low. This is the best advice I can give to any writer. When I first started writing, I thought my first draft had to be a masterpiece, something brilliant and mind-blowing. The only thing this led to was me sitting in front of a blank screen for hours, frozen by the pressure of coming up with the perfect first draft.
It was only when I told myself that it was okay to write terrible first drafts that the words started flowing. Until now, having written twelve books, I still have to remind myself that it’s okay to aim low for my first draft. It’s okay to write a complete mess. It can always be fixed later.
Of course, this doesn't mean that you should write without direction. In fact, before each writing session, I take three to five minutes to think of what the scene should achieve and try to envision a snippet of dialogue or a bit of action, and I try to think of where the scene should end. With that vague idea in mind, I begin writing.
Try this exercise:
1. Sit back and close your eyes. Think of the scene you are about to write. What is your character about to do? What's in their way, and how far are they willing to go to get to their goal?
2. Once you have a bit of an idea of what the scene should accomplish, fold a piece of paper over your computer screen, obscuring most of it. Make sure the bottom of the screen is still visible so you can see one line of writing.
3. With most of your computer screen covered, set a timer for fifteen minutes. During these fifteen minutes, you are not allowed to do anything but write as fast as the wind. Do not edit as you write; you shouldn't be able to anyway, since your screen is covered! Write as fast as your fingers allow you to, stopping only when the timer goes off.
Rinse and repeat! This is literally how I write my books now. Think, paper over screen, timer. I hope it works as well for you as it does for me!
- Jesse Q Sutanto
About the Author
Jesse Q Sutanto is an author of books for children and adults. She is the author of The Obsession, a YA suspense novel forthcoming from Sourcebooks Fire in February 2021, and Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit, the first in a middle grade series set to publish in early 2022 from Imprint. Her new book Dial A for Aunties is available now.
She received her Masters from the University of Oxford. She grew up in Indonesia and Singapore and currently lives in Jakarta with her husband and two daughters.
You can find out more about Jesse on her website www.jesseqsutanto.com and follow her on Twitter @thewritinghippo and on Facebook and Instagram @JesseQSutanto