Monday, September 23, 2013

Tool #42: Do your homework well in advance.

. . .Prepare yourself for the expected--and unexpected.

Today I am featuring another chapter tidbit from Roy Peter Clark's book, "Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer," published by Little, Brown and Company. You can find a copy here.  This last section of chapters is entitled, "Useful Habits."

"That great writing coach Prince Hamlet said it best: 'the readiness is all.' Good writers prepare for the next big writing project, even if it is not yet on the radar screen,  they expect the unexpected.  Like Batman, they cinch up a utility belt loaded with handy tools.  They fill a reservoir of knowlege they can drain at a moments notice.

     Virginia Woolf argued famously that to prepare to write fiction, women would need some money and 'a room of one's own.'  Her contemporary, Dorothea Brande, describe a more disciplined form of writing preparation:

Mind you, you are not yet to write it.  The work you are doing on it is preliminary.  For a day of two you are going to immerse yourself in these details; you are going to think about them consciously, turning if necessary to books of reference to fill in your facts.  Then you are going to dream about it. . . There will seem no end to the stuff that you can find to work over.  What does the heroine look like?  Was she an only child, or the eldest of several?  How was she educated?  Does she work? (from Becoming a Writer)

She then cites novelist Ford Madox Ford, who adhered to an even more exacting regimen:

I may. . .plan out every scene. . .in a novel before I sit down to write it. . . I must know--from personal observation, not reading-- the shape of windows, the nature of doorknobs, the aspect of kitchens, the material of which dresses are made, the leather used in shoes, the method used in manuring fields, the nature of bus tickets.  I shall never use any of these things in the book.  But unless I know what sort of doorknob his fingers close on how shall I . . .get my character out of doors?

So, with these quotes, let's go on to the WORKSHOP:

-With the help of a friend, list possible big writing projects that could emerge from your specialty or area of interest.  Begin homework on these topics, preparation that will help you down the road.

Next week's excerpt is from the chapter: "Read for both form and content."  Stay tuned!


  1. Great quotes. I like to plan and prepare before I write, and I need my writing space too (the comfy chair and perhaps some chocolate).

  2. Yes, Lynda. . .the right ambiance is inspirational!


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Journey into the Promised Land
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