Prewriting. I don’t do it. I open a page and start writing. How else do I know what I think? (I’m paraphrasing a quote from a famous writer whose name I don’t remember.) You can tell I do this on the blog every day.

But sometimes you look at your manuscript and think, fuck, I have nothing else to say. Then you have some options.

As I discussed with Averil, you can get drunk or kill yourself, but often these are very inconvenient. So there are other options.

You could read a book in the same genre to get ideas for flow, voice, and style. You can give up for the day and hope for better luck tomorrow. You can read a book that is tangentially related and mine it for ideas. You can go walk your dog/spouse/kid.

Or you can do research. You can go outside and sit under the tree in your yard. You can eye the mint under the tree for juleps later, but it’s too early for that shit now. You can read a book about [obscure topic] that you only barely understand.

Somehow that scholarly book is like poetry. Each line takes you so long to digest and think about that you have the space to have your own ideas and reactions to the information presented.

And when you look at your MS again, you still hate it. Even the font (your beloved Times New Roman) disgusts you. But you feel on fire anyway. When was the last time you thought this hard about something divorced from your daily thoughts?

[Spoiler: When you read Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts]

This reading is cracking my head open. It is prewriting. It is good for the brain. It is giving me the endurance to finish the fucker.

What have you been doing recently to finish the fucker?


11 responses to “Prewriting

  1. That quote is from “Beat Not the Poor Desk,” but it is a secondary quote. you’ll have to look it up.

    How about C. Day Lewis’s “We do not write to be understood, we write to understand.”

    • You forgot to mention that “Beat Not the Poor Desk” was written by Marie Ponsot, who just happens to be one of my favorite poets.

      I think it was Woolf. But you were the one who had the list of quotes about writing, dear sister.

      • I may have the list of quotes, but YOU told me about Ponsot. Great book! Oh have you got any ideas about writing exercises for a group of starting-out masters’ students? I’d like about three please.

      • Well, originally I’d written in present tense because I wanted that immediacy and liked the idea of the reader being right alongside the character as the story progresses. It helps sometimes in ratcheting up the suspense. But later I decided to frame the story at the beginning with the scene of the character’s death, and have her relate the events as if in explanation to someone who’s there when she dies. Her murderer, perhaps, though it’s not clear until the end.

        Anyway. Onward with the conjugations.

  2. Great ideas – averil/indy. Can’t wait to read your book Averil. Murder? Yes, my favourite genre (after jinnis and golums). And indeed Indy, let’s get verb highlighters. Or, actually parts-of-speech highlighters. I wouldn’t mind making sure I hadn’t n-dashed (“n”, right?) my double adjectives where the first one had an -ly ending. I do like the find command for making sure I haven’t used admubrate more than once in 100,000 words (one mustn’t).

    In answer to your second question, Indy,,, Academic.

    In answer to your first question (what am I doing to finish the fucker?), asking on-line rabbis to translate Hebrew. Really!

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