Writing Before Writing

“If you know how to freestyle, you will never have writer’s block.”

-will.i.am

 

Sometimes the trickiest part of sitting down to write is getting back into voice. Maybe yesterday you beasted out twenty new pages, and today you’re struggling to keep that momentum going. Some authors retype or rewrite the last page of material and try to just keep it going; others go back and reread until they catch up and feel sufficiently in their characters’ heads. Sometimes, though, you’re itching to write new content and are just struggling to get into the scene you’re supposed to be writing.

A little trick to get past that: write before you write. Which means…what, exactly?

 

Write to get into voice. Open up a new document or turn to a clean page in your notebook so you’re not even looking at the current project. Take five or ten minutes and write one of the following:

A Future Deleted Scene: Indulge in a fluffy scene that would be cut from the final manuscript. Write a roundabout conversation between two characters that will appear in the final draft as “They greeted each other.” Write about your character getting dressed in the morning. Describe them doing something mundane, like taking notes in class or giving their pet dragon a bath—whatever constitutes as daily whatever in this world. This helps you get back into the character’s voice without misdirecting your plot or plaguing your draft with rambling. Bonus—if you end up getting into the scene, you can always cannibalize the good stuff into your final draft.

A Scene That Would Never Happen: Put your character in an absurd situation. Write a page or so of your vampire hunter walking in to his surprise birthday party. Have your ordinary high school student trying to catch brownies (the fairy kind, not the chocolatey treat) and chasing them around the house. Put your character in a situation that would otherwise never happen; not only is it a fun, no-pressure writing exercise that will help you get into that character’s voice, but you may learn something new when you put them outside of their usual plot.

A Short Piece Separate from Your Novel: Write a poem, a short story, or a nonsense paragraph. Look up writing prompts for one-sentence suggestions on what to write, if you don’t have any ideas for a short piece. Some authors have no trouble getting into character voices and just need a little push to get into the writing zone itself. Pen something short and sweet, and once the ink starts flowing, switch over to your real project. Like with the other examples, these warmups could turn into their own publishable drafts, but don’t go into a writing prompt putting that kind of pressure on yourself. Always think of it as a means to get you writing your top priority, and you’ll never be disappointed; either it does what you want and gets you ready for your current project, or you get a whole other creative piece out of it.

A Doodle, Word Art, or Charts: For some writers, this can be a great way to tune in to their characters and stories. Draw or make a collage of what you imagine settings and characters looking like; write your character’s name and surround it with words you associate with them (“tall,” “waffles,” whatever makes sense to you); or make a list of non-plot-related things like characters’ favorite foods or colors. Sometimes fun facts get us so excited about what we’ve created that we have to dive right in and start writing. I admit that I tend to get distracted by fun facts and don’t normally go with this method, but if it works for you, it’s valid!

 

Do you ever do writing prompts to get yourself in the zone? What are your prewriting tips and tricks? Be sure to tell me in the comments or tweet me @turtlewriter!

 

Happy writing!

xo P

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