About a year ago, I blogged about my pre-writing exercises (I recommend checking out that post for more details on my process. I’m going to be brief here).
This step in my writing process was a big break-through for my productivity. It still is, however I’ve recently tweaked and improved my method, and so I thought I’d share.
I used to do my pre-writing exercises right in Scrivener. However, I discovered that whenever I got stuck–either in writing the beats or writing the scene itself–the best solution was to set aside my computer and try a more tactile method of problem solving: either pen and paper or my trusty whiteboard and a variety of colorful markers. I would create mind maps, doodles, jot down intentions and themes as well as potential plot points and see if I could draw connections. And somehow, out of all of that nonsense, an answer would always arise.
I really think that typing and writing by hand tap into different creative flows. And while I prefer typing for actual draft writing (so I can write my sentences inside out, rather than beginning to end), there is no doubt in my mind that handwriting is king when it comes to plot-untangling, character-redirection, and writer’s-block-busting.
And so it occurred to me recently: why do I use this method as a step-backwards, and only when I’ve hit a snag? Why not tap into this more clear-sighted method of writing in the first place? So I made a simple PDF printout of my pre-writing exercises, leaving plenty of white space for mind-maps and doodles, and then began planning my scenes by hand.
Now, this is my favorite ritual. I take my empty worksheet and my sharpie pen, along with the other key ingredient: a cup of coffee, and I curl up in my reading chair instead of at my desk. Something about differentiating these work zones helps, too, I think. It’s very pavlovian. I take as long as I want or need to sketch out my scenes–and if daydreaming and doodling are necessary, so be it (I likely would have gotten stuck on that scene anyway, so time-wise I view it as a wash). And then, when I’m finished with pre-writing, I go to my desk and immediately begin writing the scene. No dithering now, no doodling now. The desk is a space for drafting and editing only.
It really is an ongoing process: discovering all the little tricks and techniques that you, as an individual writer, can use to better tap into creativity and improve efficiency. I’m sure I’m still figuring out my own ideal work habits, bit by bit. But it’s always such a joy whenever I do find some small way to make the herculean task of writing a novel more approachable. Which is why I wanted to share–just in case this tip would speak for anyone else.