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!
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?
Posted on November 28, 2013, in Auth: Jessa Slade and tagged Blake Snyder, Carolyn Greene, Debra Dixon, first drafts, michael hauge, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, plotting, prewriting, Robert McKee. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.