Monday, August 1, 2016

The Value of Prewriting

When you hear the term prewritng, what comes to mind? Brainstorming? Research? Scattered notes on your desk? I'm sure we'd agree on the definition: the early stage of writing where idea formulation begins and blossoms. 

Recently while vacuuming and mentally sorting out an article idea, I recalled something a writing instructor told me. Her husband saw her sitting on the couch and asked if she was taking a break. She told him she was working - writing an article in her head. Her point for me was that a writer's life has numerous productive stages, whether done with pen and paper, on the computer screen, or in our heads.

This encouraged and helped me see the value of the prewriting and brainstorming stages. It's where our ideas are birthed and become a reality on the road to our destination: communicating with readers. 

Elizabeth King Humphrey had this to say about Creative Brainstorming on the Women on Writing blog:

"When teaching writing, I’ve often found that many students don’t seem to throw enough focus on each of the different steps involved in writing: pre-writing, writing, and revising. Creativity can play a part in all three stages. 

Certainly, if supported, the pre-writing stage can help a writer gain access to a variety of ideas that might not have appeared without taking the time. What happens when you approach your writing with a variety of questions or just space and time to grow your ideas? Often you get surprising answers that expand your choices even more. You’ve moved beyond the tip of the iceberg because your few ideas help to generate more ideas; your creative right side is engaged. A brainstorming session is born."

I have to agree. Writers are wired for thinking, which translates into writing. In the right balance, this is a good thing. It doesn't have to overwhelm. 

Prewriting keeps the mind active, offering material and insight for current and future projects. It sustains "continued education", helping us stretch our minds and strengthen the skills we need to keep moving forward.

In Other News 
Ann Gabhart visits us next week to discuss and give away a copy of her latest book, Murder Comes by Mail. Hope you can join us!

Congratulations to Susan P., winner of Carry Me Home by Dorothy Adamek in last week's interview and  giveaway

What kind of prewriting do you do? What are you writing this week? 

Happy writing,


  1. Hi Karen - I certainly need the 'brain space' - and now I really need to organise my writing life and set myself proper goals to keep. My ideas are gelling - now just must get to it. I'm writing up articles to get myself ahead for my end-goal ... so ideas on various interesting subjects - prosthetic noses 16th C and clay pipes .. but other things too ... the more I can get done for the blog - then I'll be free to concentrate ...

    Cheers - I'm off to paint with words ... Hilary

  2. Hi Karen,
    During the day I find myself thinking about my writing, even when I'm doing mundane tasks like mopping the floor. And at night, I'm able to work out some details that I might otherwise miss. This week I'm working on a first draft of an historical short story set on the Mississippi riverfront in St. Louis in the mid 1800s. Hope you have a great week!

  3. Idea gathering and pre-writing are two of my favorite stages. People don't realize that writers "staring off into space" are likely working very hard on something awesome for their readers. Right?

  4. I write morning pages, which often takes the form of pre-writing as I basically do a brain dump on the page. :)

  5. I tend to do a lot of prewriting in my head before I ever commit anything to paper.

  6. I can appreciate the different productive stages of my writing life now more than ever. Being able to zone out and work at the same time is a great way of connecting all the dots. The best part, you can do the prewriting anywhere. Happy August, Karen.

  7. Hilary,
    Yes, the brain space really does make a difference in helping us along, that's for sure! :) Cheering you on with those goals! I need to follow your example.

    It's interesting how many things come to life over those mundane tasks, isn't it? :) Best wishes with that story!

    Oh yes, I agree; we are writing so much of the time! :) It keeps us out of trouble. Well, mostly

    That's a good thing, I'm thinking. :) Getting it all down is important too. :)

    It's amazing how much writing gets done in our heads, isn't it? :)

    That's a good way to put it - connecting the dots. I like that! :) Happy August to you too!

    Happy writing,

  8. It's true! When I get stopped by writer's block, it's because I didn't do enough thinking through the story beforehand. Before baby #4, I even kept a mental story shelf for each of my stories and literally placed ideas in a nook in my brain. I guess I had to transition over to digital storage eventually...

  9. Does sorting through years of random clippings and research material count as prewriting? I think so--at least that's what I've been doing lately and so many articles that I've unearthed have stimulated story ideas. It's been fun but it really is time to get the draft down! Thanks, Karen, great post :-)

  10. I do a lot of prewriting in bed when I should be sleeping. ;)

  11. Time to grow our ideas. We need that.

    I do the same thing as Lynda. LOL I write so many scenes in my head when I should be sleeping.

  12. Crystal,
    As much as there is to be said about mental storage, that digital stuff comes in handy! lol :)

    Of course it does! Good point. So many things fall into that category, I'm thinking. :)

    Me too. And driving, and doing dishes, and grocery :)

    Yes, that's a good way to put it- growing our doesn't all just happen at the computer screen. :)

    Happy weekend,

  13. Hi Karen -

    I pre-write in my head. I'm in that stage right now with my next book. I'm mentally trying several first lines and figuring out what direction I want to go. I never thought of this process as free writing, but I guess it qualifies. :)

  14. Sometimes, I pre-write in my head. I also use my Neo portable word processor. At church last Sunday a friend asked me a question about one of the scriptures our pastor used in his sermon. It settled in my brain and I wrote a 500+ word article for my column. The week before, a term in our Sunday school book gave me the same kind of result.The term struck a chord with me. Blessings on you.

  15. Susan,
    I write in my head all the time. As long as I remember to write it down, I'm good. Lol Yeah, it kind of is free writing, isn't it? :)

    You just never know where an idea will come from or go, do you? Sounds like you have a good memory and make good use of those thoughts! Blessings to you too, dear friend. :)

    Happy writing,


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!