February 08, 2016

Pre-Writing a Scene

  The idea is simple: 10 or so minutes to pre-write key events, quotes, and development you want to hit in your next scene. But it does WONDERS, especially for those with ADD. It increased my writing speed, my finishing rate on stories, and has been instrumental in blasting past any blocks to actually get some fiction writing done.

  I first heard of this idea while reading N.P. Martin"s "1500 Words Per Hour: How To Write Faster, Better And More Easily Using The Simple And Powerful Speed Write System For Writing Mastery" long title huh?
  You can find both the kindle and audible versions of it here. It's short, to the point, and cheap, and I enjoyed the subject matter. But the pre-writing concept was my key, practical takeaway and the most beneficial to my writing.

  To understand this concept fully you have first have to understand the "write, don't think" mentality that so many authors promote as a key to succeeding in writing. The idea is that constant thinking, revising, and rewriting is one of the best ways to slow or even stall yourself as a writer. Ray Bradbury was a huge proponent of this famously saying "“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
  He wasn't close to the only one though, I reference Stephen King and Dean Koontz here talking on the subject. King calls it over-analyzing and Koontz calls writing free of thinking relying on "intuition." They both feel leaving the critical thinking out of the writing time as much as possible is important.

   But it's too easy to stop and rethink what you're writing, then go back try to rewrite it, or think about what you want to write next. After a period of time you may realize that you're getting much more editing and thinking done than actual writing, and the writing is coming MUCH slower and as Ray puts it "self-conscious."
  What if in the moments you're trying to collect your thoughts and move forward you could look over at a guide written by... you? That's what this pre-writing phase is, a handwritten/typed guide by yours truly, guiding you forward in a cohesive manner. You do your thinking about what you want to write and what happens anyway (at least the main idea and points), why not do it up front and get a guide to keep you on track in the process?
  Maybe some writers can write without thinking with little to no outlining, like Bradbury. But for many of us, just taking off writing leads to rethinking, rewriting, and writer's block. That's what this pre-writing exercise is for. N.P. Martin got the concept, and the concept of his book, from many professional writers, and now I'm bringing it to you.

So, how exactly do you go about this 10 minutes or so of pre-writing and what are its other benefits?

The Nitty Gritty:

How to do it

-take the time just before writing and summarize/note what you want out of the scene
-N.P. Martin suggests handwriting it on paper, I use my typewriter because I love that thing
-shorthand, ie clipped sentences and lots of pronouns
-hit key plot points (I do so with bullet points like this)
-include quotes that pop into your head (maybe this only happens to me, but I enjoy building a paragraph or mood around a powerful quote)
-include what you want to show the reader, whether that's something in the scene, something about a character, or something explaining the world or environment around the character, or anything else

-after this begin your writing without stopping to even correct grammatical or spelling errors (Martin recommends) let the fingers fly, occasionally referencing what you outlined for yourself, and you'll find the path much faster and more creativity based than before (occasionally adding what feels right in addition to your skeleton outline without over thinking it)
-do it every time you write creatively from now on, just before you start

What it does

-allows you to begin writing fast without thinking, get more done, and allow your creativity to flourish by getting all (or the majority) of your thinking done up front
-What it did for me? Helped me finish a story quicker than normal and start several others little to no getting stuck.

Give it at least one try.

  Below (and at the beginning of the article) are examples of pre-writing from parts from my stories. They're messy, have errors, and have things possibly only I will understand. But they're good examples (especially this one below).
  I will also note that I added to and changed some of what I pre-wrote as I wrote without thinking, but strictly adhering to an outline wasn't the point. The point was when I got momentarily stuck thinking "what comes next" or "what do I want out of this scene" I turned to this instead of having to think about and plan it in the moment.

  If you're interested in more pre-writing/outlining advice, check out this article on character building/bios.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

when you go to writing phase, what's the best way to logistically use the prewriting to write? Are you holding printout of prewriting by the laptop and writing in word to expound on phrases & sentences written?

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