Thursday, May 5, 2011

Before Writing Checklist

So I'm at the library right now. It's nice to have a change of scenery. I've written more today, here, than I have at home in a long, long time. Which is good. It's all part of making goals for the summer. I'm constantly trying to re-motivate myself, as you well know, and I think I'm finally figuring out some effective ways to do that. For now, at least :P

A new idea I've had is the “Before Writing Checklist.” The concept is that you use the checklist to give yourself some concrete steps leading up to the actual words on page. If you're like me, you find it difficult to just sit down and produce. This checklist is designed to help with that.

Two things to keep in mind. First, this is my version, so you might want to tweek it a bit. And second, it's heavily inspired by Mystery and Manners, a collection of essays written by Flannery O'Connor, specifically the one on fiction. :P


Step 1: Turn off your wireless internet, or simply remove the bookmarks bar (in chrome, ctrl + shift + B will remove it and the same will put it back), to stop internet surfing distractions.

Step 2: Write at least one hundred words in a blank document on any topic to warm up. Sample ideas: Describe what you see around you. Steam of conscious about any emotions or thoughts. Random musings about your characters.

Step 3: Review the fundamentals (you may have different fundamentals, I find these helpful and they are drawn from the essay by Flannery O'Connor).

A) “Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn yourself getting dusty, then you shouldn't try fiction. It's not a grand enough job for you.”

B) Characters are abstract, but the details of their behavior and personality make them concrete.

C) “Aspire to anagogical vision: the kind of vision that is able to see different levels of reality in one image or situation.” Create a concrete plot, concrete settings, and concrete character details.

Step 4: Review yesterday's work and perform minor edits. Get a sense of where you are in the story.

Step 5: Use a notebook as a tool. Make a list of plot, setting, and character (in that order), and fill out what you're doing in the next scene that needs to be written.

Step 6: Write.

Step 7: Take a break, but make sure that your break is not distracting. A break should be restful, but also accomplish something. Try another activity or chore that you were putting off, or work on a blog (that's what I'm doing right now!) Then go back to steps 3-5, if necessary.

And that's it :-) Discussion is open! What do you think? Have you ever tried a checklist?


Benjamin said...

i actually don't get too distracted by the internet to write, unlike many other people, and often end up using it to research little things to make my writing more veritable/believable/polished. however, i find that the computer's interface itself can be distracting to me: typography, placement of icons, toolbars, etc. even in my "distraction-free writing software" (i use writeroom on my mac, currently... but i'm definitely thinking of switching) which is full-screen, and completely customizable, i can't "get comfortable" and continually waste time trying to find the perfect font-size, etc.

now i'm starting to do most of my first drafts on paper. (i have a really, really expensive pen that makes me feel ok.)

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