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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Love Me, Love Me Not

 

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I remember as a child, plucking petals from daisies and saying, “He loves me. He loves me not” until the stem was bare.

Today, I plucked petals from a sunflower. I repeated,  “Shopping. Writing. Shopping. Writing.” 

Do you sometimes need motivation to get down to work?

Even if writing is your passion, like it is mine, do you still find there are times we need to give ourselves a little nudge?

For instance, “If I write for two hours, I can watch my favorite television show, or if I write today, I will let myself go out for coffee with a friend this evening.” And so on.

Are we losing our interest in—or desire to—write? Are we abandoning our dream…our goal?

The holidays are busy with decorating, shopping and celebrating. It’s only natural that there is less time for writing, laundry, and cleaning. 

This season, I’m giving myself permission to spend time with family and friends. I may even go to a holiday movie.

 I’m not going to make myself feel guilty if I don’t get much writing accomplished. 

The computer will still be there when the holidays are over. And, who knows? When I reread what I last wrote, I may see it with a fresh set of eyes. My edits may come faster and easier.

I may end up with a better finished product.

I remember that when I was a teacher, I did my best teaching after Christmas break. I was refreshed and ready to tackle the second semester.

What will you do? Motivate yourself by plucking petals off a rose? Or call a friend and suggest you meet at the mall?

Flash Fiction Tips

 

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Some reminders before you put pen to paper:

1. Flash fiction shouldn’t be more than 1,000 words.

2.  It is NOT easy to get a whole short story into so few words. It requires a lot of PLANNING and EDITING.

3.  Writing Flash Fiction often takes MORE time than longer works.

4.  Focus on the small moments that shape bigger ideas, rather than on the big ideas.

5.  A good idea is to base Flash Fiction stories on things readers already know, such as myths and fairy tales, for example.

6.  To get your word count down, leave out dialogue attributions and in-depth descriptions.

7.  Focus on one central idea.  

Next week, we’ll finish off the series on Flash Fiction by sharing where you can go to read some good examples of Flash Fiction.

Christmas Letter

 

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On my “To-Do” list this week, is writing my yearly Christmas letter to friends and family. I am making a list of trips, health updates, and accomplishments I’d like to include.

That got me to thinking about YOU and what I’d like to share as the Christmas season fast approaches.

First of all, I’d like you to know how much I appreciate your encouragement and support by reading/commenting on my blogs each week. I hope they have been both helpful and encouraging to you as we walk this “writing road” together.

To catch you up on what I am doing, currently, I can say that my Beta Readers are doing their work right now, critiquing Simon Says. I look forward to hearing from them over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, I am busy writing back cover copy, revising my “About the Author” page, looking at a myriad possibilities for the front cover, and jotting down ideas for the second book in the series.

Finally, I am finishing up the manuscript for my second interactive Alzheimer’s book, I Remember Bible Stories,” as well as interviewing illustrators.

On a more personal level, I continue to be more involved in my parents’ lives at their care center and am taking on some of my mother’s previous roles, such as the big family gathering on Christmas Day. I am fortunate to live near a Honey Baked Ham store, as I am planning the meal around a nice spiral-cut ham.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years as you move ahead toward both your personal and writing goals.

Brenda

Is There Still Such A Thing as Reading for Pleasure?

I still read for an hour or so before I go to bed. It’s been a life long habit.

Reading for pleasure…reading to relax…reading to satisfy a craving for adventure, romance, intrigue…

But, sometimes in the middle of a chapter, I find that I’ve absentmindedly switched into edit mode, dissecting plot, sentence structure—well, you get the idea.

Why,” I ask myself, “can’t you just enjoy a book and try not to play editor and critic?”

I’m a relative newbie myself, and I certainly have a lot to learn. I promise I don’t do it because I want to be critical of another writer.

Why do I do it, then?     7167049958_be9ac9e47d

I’m not 100% sure, but a lady I was talking to in the salon where I get my hair cut said something worth repeating.

I was telling her that I was editing my book —yet, again—and she divulged that she is an avid reader, who often reads right over typos and other mistakes because she is sooooo engrossed in the story.

That caught my attention. 

Perhaps the reason I sometimes shift into edit mode is that the story is not engaging me. So, instead of reading on, my mind tries to fix it….

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think there is a golden nugget of truth there:

The most important aspect of writing just may be story. 

If we give our readers a well-written story, they may be able to forgive us an incomplete sentence or the use of an adverb here and there.

I suggest we do strive for excellence in all of our writing

BUT

our readers can be a very forgiving bunch

 IF 

we will give them what they want most:

a great story!