Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pre-Writing Preparation

You'd rather be writing, but first you have to...

10. Reach into the freezer and get something out for dinner. WARNING: You may discover things in your freezer older than your youngest child. This has happened to me. This brings up all sorts of other issues that may further delay your writing.

9. Organize your desk - including all the drawers. This could take hours, if you're lucky. But don't think of it as luck, think of it as being thorough.

8. Vacuum the cat. Yes, scratches and a certain amount of blood loss with probably be involved. However, you can use the pain and suffering to enrich the detail in your current work.

7. Do more research. You're not wasting time, you're getting your details correct. Keep repeating this - it helps alleviate the guilt.

6. Have a snack. Go to the kitchen to discover you are out of snacky foods. Go to the grocery store. Don't forget you're out of milk. And cheese. And toilet paper.

5. Reread your previous few paragraphs to remind yourself where you are in the plot. Try to read them with no judgment. Try. Try harder. Now step away from the delete button.

4. Have a staring contest with your pet. NOTE: With a dog, you have a fair chance of winning. With a cat you have less chance. With a fish, you have no chance. No pet? Stare at a picture of one in a magazine. You're not wasting time, you're sharpening your concentration.

3. Close your eyes and imagine the blockbuster movie that will be made based on your current manuscript. Picture a scene and hear the dialogue. WARNING: This exercise may lead to actual writing.  Approach with caution.

2. Think about what your characters were like in high school as a means of exploring their histories.  Think about what you were like in high school. Think about what your friends were like in high school.  Do you remember some of the names? Hello, Facebook?

1. To pick up dialogue tips, watch a movie or television episode written by one of your favorite writers. WARNING: This may cause severe depression and self-loathing. More snacks may be necessary.

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Elspeth Antonelli is an author and playwright. Her twelve murder mystery games and two plays are available through host-party.comShe has also contributed articles to the European writers' magazine "Elias". Her blog, "It's A Mystery," explores the writing process with a touch of humor. She is on Twitter as @elspethwrites.


  1. Thanks for this post! i really enjoyed reading it!!!

  2. Love it, thanks for making me smile :-)

  3. What a cute and funny list! I'd say my personal list begins with "Dump Sweet Tarts in bowl. Remove all green ones and place them in a neat stack on husband's desk." ;)

  4. 11. Admire a blog post on writing. Copy the URL. Shrink the URL on Tinyurl.com. Post shrunken URL on Twitter. Read other Twitter posts to get the feel.

  5. What fun, I always love your approach to the writing game, especially the snacks.

    And I'm with Kate. I always get on the Web and just keep going....

  6. I laughed, Elspeth, and then I thought about my own excuse list. Hmmm. I think you hit the nail on the head (please forgive the cliché, but it fits so well).

  7. academic papers; Thanks for letting me know!

    JM; And your kind comment made *me* smile.

    Wendy; I love it!

    Kate; 12. Convince yourself you're spreading knowledge and not spinning your wheels.

    Maryann; So do I...

    Linda; It's funny 'cause it's true!

  8. Hmmm - You missed checking all the blogs you follow for a post you missed, checking your e-mail (again!), trying to beat your last time on web-suduko or that puzzle on jigzone, and my personal favorite - noticing the birds in the backyard look hungry and filling all the feeders.

  9. LD; I stand (well, sit actually) corrected.

  10. I have done all of this... except vacuuming the cat. Though if I had a dust buster I would try.

  11. Sharon; Get the dust buster. It's an adventure.

  12. What a riot! I want to steal this post for my AuthorCulture blog.

    As much as I'd love to, I'd never get to vacuum the cats. The run and hide the moment the broom closet door opens.

  13. Linda; I have a cat who beats a hasty retreat when I walk toward the vacuum. I could never get close.

  14. Task avoidance happens to be a skill at which I excel ... I can kill a whole day going through my Val-Pak envelope.

  15. I'm with Kate...but I'm about to write. Really. Just as soon as I Tweet and re-check my email and...

    Thanks for a great post!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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