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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pre-thinking through your chapters

I'm writing this post in response to my stupid brain. It's 5:30 in the morning, I'm sitting on my couch with the laptop, and I can't write a sentence in my chapter to save my life. It didn't take me long to figure out why. I didn't put any pre-thought into what I was going to write today. I woke up with the determination to write, but my morning productivity is usually determined the night and day before, when I've gone over things in my head to a sufficient extent. I have just wasted my time, and won't be reaching my word count goal today.

It is so important to pre-think what you will write. I'm a discovery writer. I hate outlines. This doesn't mean that I make up story on the spot every time I sit down to write. I usually spend more time thinking about what I'm going to write--more time than I even spend writing--before I put words down on the page. My problem today is that I didn't review the earlier parts of the chapter I'm in, and I took two days off from writing to vote on Tuesday, and then recover from election garbage on Wednesday. It's been since Monday that I've done anything. I haven't thought about this chapter since then. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

It doesn't matter if you are an outliner or not. You still have to decide before writing how you're going to approach a specific scene. An outline can tell you what will happen in the scene, but not necessarily how you will move through the scene (unless you are an incredibly detailed outliner). If you are having similar problems to what I'm experiencing this morning, let me suggest that you pre-think before you write. Take an hour or so the day before you approach a scene and work everything out in your head. It's even okay if you write down how you'll do it. I take lots of notes--on my computer and my phone. If you want to write efficiently, you always have to be thinking about what you're going to say. If you don't pre-think, you'll find yourself staring blankly at your screen like I did this morning. It's never fun to do this. It's a micro slice of writer's block, and it's annoying as hell.

So there you have it. A bit of advice that has helped me avoid being dumb. You're welcome.


  1. I've heard differing thoughts on this subject from different writers. Some writers get brain-lock and go into panic mode if they think about it ahead of time. They thrive on pantser inspiration. I'm like you, I at least have to know, in general, what my point is for the upcoming scene/chapter and go from there. A combo gal.

  2. I'm with you, Jordan. If I think it out before hand I can bust out a chapter or a scene with no problem. If I don't, I usually dawdle, play on the web, get a snack, wash my hands, look at my watch and then do something else.