Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting Ready to Write: The Art of Prewriting

When most people think of writing, their image begins with the hapless scribe sitting down in front of the computer and beginning to compose the story, article, play, essay or whatever else they might be writing. Some a bit more savvy about the writing process than others might acknowledge a research stage or an outlining/planning stage. However, there is a stage before one even begins to plan a piece of writing. That is called pre-writing.

Prewriting is the stage where you get ready to write. In one way, everything that ever happened to you prior to your writing session could be considered Pre-Writing. However, that is a bit too philosophical for our purposes. We are going to discuss ways to enter a writing session.

Before beginning, remember, these steps aren't always necessary. Many times you can and will just sit down and start writing. Other times you simply don't have time for this. However, sometimes you just have to "warm up." Think about it like stretching before an exercise session. There are three types of pre-writing activities. (Probably more, but let's try to keep things simple here.) Rituals, Meditations and Exercises


Many people begin by using a variety of rituals. Most wouldn't consider them rituals, but they are behaviors which get them in the mood for writing. These might include sitting down in your favorite recliner with your laptop (okay I'm thinking of mine).  Some have a particular dietary regimen with snacks and drinks nearby. For others it might be a type of music playing on the stereo. It may even be a lucky T-shirt or a Teddy Bear tucked under one arm. Hey, what ever works and is legal.

What rituals do you perform before you sit down to write? Share with us .


James Qwilleran, a journalist character Lillian Jackson Braun's Cat Who... series of mystery novels, says that 90 percent of writing is thinking and 10 percent the actual writing.  I am likely to be laying on my bed with my eyes closed envisioning myself writing the story or article. Sometimes my fingers even twitch. I'm not saying you should do this, but it's one of my ways to prepare to write. Of course, this is not a good idea at the end of a very long and tiring day. Meditation can easily turn to sleeping.

Some of us who have strong religious beliefs include prayer in our pre-writing routine. As a Christian, I will ask God to give my his wisdom and inspiration and to guide my writing. I even do this with my secular writing. I find it helps me to have not just a project, but a purpose.

Whatever method works for you, a time of reflection before writing can give you extra focus.

Is there a way that you reflect or meditate prior to writing? Tell us about it


We will be examining these more in future lessons, but when you are having trouble getting started writing using writing prompts or creativity exercises can help you get ready to write.

I began creating Creative Calisthenics more than 20 years ago when I was teaching three-hour long writing classes. We began each session with a quick exercise. These exercises did two things. First, they helped us limber up those creative muscles for the more substantive exercises to come. However, secondly and as importantly, they were FUN!!

Writing is work. We all know that. But too often, especially when working on assignment or pushing a deadline or just trying to make that first sale, we forget that what draws most of us to writing in the first place is the sheer joy of putting words together in interesting ways, of creating characters and the worlds they inhabit, of finding out about a subject and writing about it. We forget about the fun.

A reminder of that element of fun in writing before getting to the work of writing lightens the load when struggling with the fourth revision or expunging passive voice and correcting commas.

You know, even if writing prompts did nothing more than help you have fun, they are probably worth it.

So, for the next few days, let's have fun.

Do you have any favorite exercises you use? We'd all love to hear about them. Post something in the comments below

This is adapted from Creative Calisthenics: The Ultimate Workout for the Writers Imagination. Email me to receive a free e-copy of the book (A Five Dollar Value) as well as an anthology of Carolyn Masters Mysteries calledLunar Calendar including one story never before published introducing a pintsized genius and a robotic cat, an exclusive excerpt from Dark Side of the Moon, and a $20 pre-launch discount on premium upgrades to courses offered on the new website. For complete details of this special offer good through November 30, email me and put “Free Book” in the subject line. 

1 comment:

  1. I shared a link to this article at my blog:

    Honestly, I don't do much to get ready to write except make sure I have at least an hour to work with, a glass of water or tea on my kitty coaster, and the fan blowing. Those hot flashes are distracting. :)

    Thanks for the great article.



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