A Spiritual Pilgrimage of the Pen

National Novel Writing Month is a religious experience for many writers, especially people who’ve always wanted to write but never quite got around to — ya know — actually writing, as in putting words on the page. Even when I don’t participate in the “oh please, God, let me finish” fervor, I appreciate the November energy. It’s a reminder to focus on what’s important to me as a writer: writing!

Thou Shalt Write says Jessa Slade

I approach my first draft with trepidation and awe, like a primitive worshiper at the altar of Story. I can never be sure if my Story God will be a benevolent deity or a vengeful lightning caster, so to be on the safe side, I tend to creep up on my hands and knees with an offering of pre-writing.

Like any ritual (some might call it dogma) pre-writing for me is as much about mindset as actual substance. I want to immerse myself in the sacred space that will eventually become the storyworld. This involves plotting.

Yes, here is where the Catholic plotters and Protestant pantsers part ways with a lot of impassioned rhetoric and occasional heretic burning. I confess, I have been at times agnostic and sometimes written both as pantser (a writer who optimistically believes she will be saved) and plotter (a writer who’s pretty damn sure hellfire awaits if she goes astray). But in the end, I proselytize for the plotters. Us sinners need to know what The End is so we can walk the mostly straight and narrow path to a good conclusion.

My pre-writing ritual is culled from the books of several patron saints of writers, including Debra Dixon‘s GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT, Blake Snyder‘s Beat Sheet, Michael Hauge‘s structure, Carolyn Greene’s Plot Doctor workbook, Robert McKee’s STORY: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting, and others. The blood and bones are posted of my website, but the soul of a first draft is the same for every writer, I suspect.

Finding our story is a journey out of unformed darkness into transcendent being. Sure, it might take a few reincarnations and revisions to get there, but it starts with that first transformative draft from blank page to… Well, to whatever you want to believe. And that belief has the power to create worlds without end.

Is first drafting a sacred or profane experience for you? Do you have a favorite curse you pound into your keyboard, or is your typing typically soundtracked by choirs of angels?

About Jessa Slade

Jessa Slade is the author of the Marked Souls urban fantasy romance series (NAL Signet Eclipse), the Steel Born paranormal romance series (Harlequin Nocturne Cravings), and award-winning self-published science fiction romance with Hotter on the Edge. You can find her online at all the usual haunts.

Posted on November 28, 2013, in Auth: Jessa Slade and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Jessa Slade and commented:

    My monthly post from See Jane Publish


  2. Wow, you use McKee’s formula, too. Way back when I took one of his weekend classes. BTW, the “blood and bones” on your website is great and I used it a couple years ago to rewrite myself out of a dark and scary manuscript corner 🙂


    • McKee can get rather opaque, but I think that’s what I like about him 🙂 Plus, his character in Adaptation was so freakin’ hilarious even my XY still quotes him:

      “And god help you if you use voice-over…”

      I try to remember that when I’m writing 🙂


  3. I’m still waiting for the choir of Angels to show up, but I have had moments of faint murmurs of their vocals whenever I hit the story tread that fits me, fits the story, and fits the character. At that point it’s almost a religious experience. I love your analogy of mapping out the “blood and bones” and then filling in the soul.


  4. Let me hear you say “Amen”! (Now pass the collection plate.)


  5. “pantser (a writer who optimistically believes she will be saved) and plotter (a writer who’s pretty damn sure hellfire awaits if she goes astray).” Being more Buddhist than anything, I look neither for saving nor anticipation of hell. I try to just be in the moment.

    Of course the problem with that is not putting myself to sleep.:)


  6. I loved this, Jessa. Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful to know giving writers like you who help me to keep going, planning, plotting, and writing


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