Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Pre-Writing Journey

How do you start a book? Do you begin with sentences and paragraphs and let the book creatively flow and grow? Do you pre-write with basic ideas about characters, setting, and plot? Do you outline the plot flow of the entire novel before writing anything? As a novice writer, hearing others tell "how I write" stories is fascinating. And needed. And compelling.

When I teach students about writing, I tell them pre-writing in some form is necessary in the writing process. So, writers, take me on your pre-writing journey. What does it look like? How detailed do you go? How do you know when it's time to write? Tell me your before-I-write-the-story story.

(Leave your stories in the comment section of this blog. Any information provided will be shared with whomever else reads this blog. Anything you share may be used in a future writing class I teach. Your name will be withheld. Understand that your process may inspire other writers. Author of this blog is not responsible for anything. All written in parentheses should be read in monotone and very quickly as if it concluded a drug commercial).


  1. I wait for a character to come to me, and then I just listen to them for a while. Sometimes they'll have an interesting world and I'll start doing research on things that I don't know about, and sometimes they will have a compelling plot and I'll just follow them through life for a while. I write down notes on stickies (I always keep stickies on me) and in the past I've used NaNoWriMo to get the first drafts out as quickly as possible.

  2. Mmmmm. I like 'just listen to them for awhile.' Your name: stickynotestories. Makes sense now. Thank you for sharing.

  3. One of the things that motivates me -- and helps improve my craft -- is my critique group. We try to meet once a month. Knowing we have a meeting coming up is like a deadline. It would be nice if we met more often!
    Good luck with your writing.

    On Beyond Words & Pictures

  4. Meghan, thank you. I recently (as in 2 weeks ago) joined a critique group. Best. Writing. Move. Ever. Thank you for your well wishes. Same to you.

  5. My method of writing is odd. It's not really pre-writing so much as simultaneous writing. I'll usually sit down and draft out an opening scene off the top of my head with characters and a situation I make up on the spot. THEN I start figuring the personality of the characters I'm dealing with, what their story is, what their world is like, etc. And I keep writing while I do it. A lot of the time, I can't figure out the plot until I've played with these pieces a bit. I've tried outlining first, but it kills my drive to work because it takes all the mystery out of the process for me.

  6. Like Jamie, my method is a bit wonky. But you do what works, non?

    I often have a point of inspiration—maybe a bit of dialogue, a "what if" question, part of a scene, sometimes nothing more than a picture.

    I take what I have and write it at the top of a page, and below that, I list possible elements I'd like to include in the story. —Just as I might make a grocery list of ingredients I could include in my next culinary attempt.

    From there, the story often begins to unwind itself!

    Great question, btw! Love it.

  7. Thank you, Jamie and Beth. It's enchanting to discover all the different ways authors create.


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