The Writing Process: Initial Thoughts and Raw Material (Ep. 9)

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Greetings, fellow literary people!

This week, Jennifer discusses how free-writing a compelling image, scene, or idea sparks the same passion for writing the rest of your writing project.

Full Narrative:

Last week, The YA Publication Project featured college instructor Chris Riseley and the creative journal he uses to encourage young people to enjoy writing. We realized that if you’re having trouble beginning a writing project, you’re starting in the wrong place. Let’s figure out how to change that.

From the time we start pre-school to that final thesis for your Master’s degree, we’re bombarded with guidelines and regulations for crafting the perfect piece of writing. It’s not really a surprise that writing a novel with similar expectations seems like a tormenting nightmare.

Instead of freaking out over constructing an extremely meaningful story, think back to what first inspired you to tell this story. An initial image or scene or idea sparked a personal reaction, right? This something became important and memorable to you. You may not understand why it matters, or what it can teach you, or where it will lead you — and that’s okay. What’s important is that it makes you feel something — anything at all — and that those feelings aren’t going away for a while.

Start writing there. Nothing needs to be coherent or fluid — just spill your guts. You might associate free-writing with academic busy work, but don’t junk the free-writing process. Something about that image, scene, or idea changed you in some way, and beginning with that compelling event will spark the same passion for writing the rest of the story.

Free-writing also seems daunting because we’re told time and time again to write great fiction, which entails a brilliant plot, likeable characters, presenting knowledge about the world, and so forth. (Even I’m a super-duper fan of investigating weighty questions in literature.) But, writing is a process, and what might seem trivial now will later evolve and reveal itself.

Right now, you don’t have an obligation to represent the whole of humanity. You don’t need to entertain your readers, or offer wisdom, or be conscientious of preaching or lecturing, or write only what you think will sell, or what will be read by a large readership. Instead, your one job is to allow your imagination to materialize.

New episodes are periodically posted on Mondays.

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