The First Stage of Writing: Prewriting

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So you are a new writer. You sit down at the computer, or you grab a yellow legal pad, and you freeze. “Just how does one get started?”

Well, it’s not as hard as you think. Remember your school days and what you did when given a writing assignment in English Composition class?

There were four basic stages to the writing process that you learned: prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing. (Nowadays, I think we could add publishing, but we will save that topic for another time).

Since prewriting is the “generating ideas” part of the writing process, it just well may be the most important. It is here that the writer determines the topic of the book, the message he/she wants to convey, the characters, the  point-of-view, and so on. 

If we polled authors, we might find that each uses different prewriting methods. They may use what proved to be comfortable in the past, try methods suggested by other authors, or come up with unique methods of their own.

Let’s look, briefly, at various methods and see what might be workable for you.

Prewriting Methods: The following are the methods I use. Remember, writers all work differently. I am simply sharing what works for me.

1-Brainstorming: This is the process of coming up with a list of as many ideas as possible without being worried about whether an idea is realistic or not.

After brainstorming, I go directly into the next pre-writing method. This could be hours—even days—later, however, since this is a long process.

2-Mind Maps: This method makes the most sense with the way my own brain works. It is also easy and visual. It also keeps me organized.

You may have learned this as “webbing” in school. It consists of drawing a circle in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. (This is where I write my character’s name, perhaps draw a stick figure, being sure to leave space inside the circle to add characteristics that are dominant). Then, I add lines to other, smaller circles around the main circle. Inside these go supporting characters, and so on. On the lines connecting them, I write the relationships of each one to the main character (hero). 

I actually start writing following mind mapping. However, I do want to share three other methods of prewriting which can be used separately, or in conjunction with each other.

3-Freewriting- This is when you write whatever comes into your mind for a specific amount of time. When using this method, you don’t concern yourself with punctuation, grammar, or even spelling. You just try to get down as many ideas as possible. Then, you choose one and get started writing. (You may need to repeat this process several times until you come up with a winner!)

4-Drawing/Doodling – Sometimes combining words and drawings can really open up lines of creative thought. (I’m no artist, so I often use stick figures with mind mapping).

5-Outlining – Some writers use traditional outlining to organize their ideas (I find this especially useful when planning my chapters). These writers start with their main ideas and list the supporting details underneath. The more detailed the outline, the easier it is when one begins to write.

My next blog post will be on drafting. Writing that rough draft can be just that—rough. The idea is to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible.

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