On 31st August I attended the National Association of Writers’ Group’s Festival of Writing at Warwick - and very good it was too. One of the workshops I went to was Tim Wilson’s Writing A Novel: Working Practices and Motivation, designed to give us strategies for starting and maintaining a regular writing habit in order to get that first draft of the novel written.
Of course, the strategies work whatever type of writing you do, and one of the exercises he gave us was to think. Yes, that was it. We had to spend ten minutes thinking. We weren’t allowed to write anything down. All we could do was think about something we wanted to write about.
Now, in some ways, this seemed to go against other advice we writers are given, such as always carrying a notebook to jot down our ideas so we don’t forget them! But here we weren’t allowed to write down anything.
After that particular exercise we then moved onto another technique, and then we broke for tea and coffee (offering us our first opportunity to meet up with others and chat). About twenty minutes later we returned to the workshop room and sat down. Tim then asked us to write about the subject we’d been thinking about over half an hour ago.
And it worked. We all sat there, busy scribbling in our notebooks. The words flowed.
Tim is a great advocate of the principle of knowing what you want to write about when you sit down to write. In other words, if you sit down to write and then think, “Now, what am I going to write about?” the words won’t flow. Whereas, if at the end of your previous writing session you think, “When I next sit down to write I need to write about this, this and this,” you’ll find it much easier to get going.
But his thinking exercise takes this one step further. If you know roughly what you need to start writing about when you next sit down, that can be enough, as long as you think about it in more detail before your next writing session. So, when you’re doing the ironing, the washing up, or mowing the lawn, use the time to think about what you’re going to write about, when your next writing session arrives. Thinking time is still writing time, even though you’re not actually writing.
From the novelist’s point of view, he was suggesting that we think about the next scene, but, of course, any writer can use this technique, whether you’re writing an article, a filler, a non-fiction book or a short story. And the more often you sit down knowing what you’re going to write, the more often you’ll sit down and write something. Which, at the end of the day, is what all writers want to do!