Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why I Allot 10 Min. Prep Time Before I Write

I 8 Wednesday. I don’t do jumping jacks, but I could. Exercise has always worked well to get my synapses firing.

So I’m not running up and down my stairs, but here’s what I am doing before I sit to write:

I clear my mind of distractions

Are you laughing yet? I know, impossible in a home with three young children. I can work with distractions, but I try to minimize them. I turn off my phone. I keep a piece of paper near me so I can jot something that crops up I might need to throw on a list. And oddly enough, though music pumps in my veins, I cannot write with it so I make sure the TV is off and no music is playing.

I get into character

I would be a sad, sad actress. I can’t bluff. But I throw myself into my characters. I want to feel what they’re feeling. I want to remember details of their backstory before I touch down on the page. I climb inside my narrator’s head before I type a single word for the day.

I set the scene

I close my eyes and visualize where I am in the book. The setting. The scene. What is happening. I watch it in my mind like a movie.

I pray

Yep. My words are no good if I haven’t taken a moment to dedicate them.

I send signal to my girls (if they’re in the house) that Mommy is entering the zone

Time for quiet time. When I write I make sure it’s at a convenient time (whenever possible—this gets tested a lot). I protect my time and instruct my girls not to interrupt me (and because I parent with an expert Mary Poppins skill, they never do).

I read over my notes

Sometimes I review and edit the prior chapter, sometimes not, based on time. But I do read notes I’ve made about the character, scene additions, and new discoveries.

I remember my audience

I take a moment to remember who I’m writing for and who I’m writing to.

I gather

I gather tea, pens, and all of my supplies so I don’t need to stop writing. I’ve been known to grab three pens in case one loses ink, then the next one loses ink. As most writers know slipping out of the zone is a crashing experience.

What do you do to prepare before partaking in something you love?
*photo by flickr


  1. I'm so glad you're Mary Poppins! I'm more Nanny McPhee--ha!

    This is a great list, Wendy.

  2. I love it! "Mommy is entering the zone."

    Seriously, I do something similar. I think my limited time to write goes so much more smoothly when I make sure I'm physically and mentally ready to concentrate on nothing but what I'm wanting to accomplish in the small amount of time I'm alotted.

  3. Wow, you ARE organized. Practically Perfect in Every Way, aren't you? Please parent me, too.

    I pray, and try to close the door, but my cats scratch to get in, then I can hear my husband's movie or annoying music, so I take a deep breath and pray some more.

    I did clean my desk a few days ago, and that has helped. Don't tell anyone, since I have a Messy Desk Contest going on my blog this week!


  4. great ideas. i def. have to do something to "get in the zone"....i usually go in "cold turkey", diving head-first!

  5. Must jump in here to make sure it's clear I was being perfectly sarcastic about the Mary Poppins remark.

    It's a laughable comparison. :D

  6. You know I just haven't mastered the Mary Poppins thing and I still have to admit I get most of my work done post 9 PM. But these are great skills to put into practice. And I absolutely agree with the praying. If we want God to be able to fully use our words we have to dedicate them to him.

  7. I make sure my kids are either at school or having quiet time in their room. If not, frustration sets in and everyone's unhappy--me, my family, and my characters. :)

  8. Wow, that's awesome! Ideally, I write when kiddos are napping or in bed. I don't do anything else to prepare. Sometimes I pray, but I haven't made it a habit. I really should...
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. I love your list. Very organized. :) I do pray before I write, and when I get stuck in the middle and hopefully at the end of the day before I go to sleep. I would be nothing without HIS guidance. :)

  10. Thank you, thank you for this info! I'm participating in NaNoWriMo next month, which will be my second serious attempt at novel writing (and the first didn't get far). I need all the help I can get!

  11. I do a lot of that too! IN addition, I stop and read a few passages from some great books to lube my brain a bit. I think that step really puts me in the right frame of mind.

  12. Great suggestions! I was just telling someone that I have trouble focusing on writing during the day with all that is going on, but that I am too exhausted at night.

  13. Sounds like a great warm-up plan. I'll have to try doing the same. Generally, I just sit down and start writing. I like the idea of gathering everything you'll need before beginning. I'm always having to stop to go get something.

  14. Hi Wendy -

    Thanks for giving us a look at how you prepare to enter the writing zone.

    Since I have two computers, I make sure the one with the Internet is turned off. This way, I won't be tempted to surf the Web or check email. (Both are huge distractions.) I have a snack handy, pray, read over the last few paragraphs to refresh my memory, and then start writing.

    Susan :)

  15. This idea of preparing sounds very useful to me. Sometimes, when I'm writing, if I'm already in the right mindset, I jump right into the scene. Other times, I take a moment, cover my eyes, and summon up the right emotions. I think it's useful to get in the mode.
    This post makes me remember acting in high school when my friends and I had special "I'm getting in character" hand gestures. Usually they made everyone laugh, but sometimes they really helped.

  16. I'm amazed your girls respect the "zone". Maybe my kids will get there some day. :-)

  17. I'm with you! Prayer is key. I also need to make sure I'm not hungry. It's so distracting to write when I'm starving!

  18. Wendy, what a great routine for writing. I might steal some of those! That's why you write so well. Blessings**

  19. Thanks for saying "hi", Wendy. :)

    --Sarah from WordServe--

  20. You know, I've never thought about it, but I do have a routine like this. And tea is included in it!

  21. I'm just picturing you acting out the characters. Love that, Wendy. May God bless you in your writing.

  22. Good suggestions. To prepare to write - I creat a sense of panic of what will happen if I don't get it done. May not be the best way, but it works :)


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