Writing Secrets: Are you writing or procrastinating?

 In How to write a book, Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

There’s often a fine balance between writing and procrastinating, particularly at the start of a writing project.

I know many of you are thinking of starting a serious writing project this year. If so, it is true that you shouldn’t start writing a book or a story too quickly.

When you’ve set your writing time, though, it can also be an insidious temptation to sit and day-dream your writing time away. How can you tell the difference between pre-writing and procrastinating?

We always tell our writers: don’t rush into those first words. Spend time developing your characters. Talk to them, ask them questions, give them the opportunity to write internal monologues.

That’s not procrastination. It’s part of the writing process. Allow your story to develop out of the work you do on character. Even if you don’t know every nuance of your narrative before you begin, it’s good to know your direction.

Try to be honest about when you’re ready to start, though. If you know your characters backwards, have a good idea of what’s going to happen to them and which direction you’ll take them in, and if you know exactly what will happen in your first couple of scenes, then you’re ready.

When you’re at this stage, and you allow yourself to wonder if you shouldn’t spend a bit more time on yet another internal monologue, or perhaps you could pretend to be a psycho-analyst interviewing your protagonist (just to know her even better), it’s the fear talking.

That’s when you need to sit down and stare at the screen till the first word appears.

Jo-Anne Richards is an internationally published novelist with a PhD in Creative Writing from Wits University. Jo-Anne has published five novelsThe Imagined Child, The Innocence of Roast ChickenMy Brother’s Book,  Touching the Lighthouse and Sad at the Edges.

Her first novel, The Innocence of Roast Chicken has been rereleased, as part of the Picador Africa Classics collection. When it first appeared, in 1996, it was nominated for the Impac International Dublin Literary Award and chosen as an “outstanding debut novel” by a British book chain.

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