Do You Do This?

When I start a project, the first thing I do is write down, in longhand, everything I know about the subject, every thought I’ve ever had on it.

~ Maya Angelou

Do you ever do this?  I’ve been thinking that since two of my characters grapple with one particular struggle in their (interior) lives, I might really go for this to establish greater depth in my perception from the start (if three-quarters into my first draft can be called “the start”).  Until now I’ve let my sense of the characters lead me forward, without anything else.  Well, them and the unfurling plot.

So… What do you think?  Do you do something similar in your work?

Oh, and another question for ya:

Does this shadow make my butt look big?

Does this shadow make my butt look big?

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About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
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11 Responses to Do You Do This?

  1. Dona says:

    I tend to do that backwards. When I start a project, I just work my hardest to get the actual idea out before I forget anything. To me, the subject i padding that I fill in later, once I already have the plot and characters down. Right now I’m in my third edit of my novel (dear god, hopefully my last) and I’m just now researching fairies to help developing them a little more. Since they’re not major in this book, it’s not a big deal that they might be a little off right from the get-go because I’ll just fix it later. There isn’t enough there of the subject in the main draft to render that much work right at the beginning and if it isn’t done, my manuscript will be hell to edit.

    I guess I work backwards in that respect. To me plot and characters are the most important to get down. The rest I’ll fill in later so it’s not a big, heaping pile of crap.

    • sputnitsa says:

      hey Dona! Good luck editing your novel! It sounds like you’re at an amazing place with it. 🙂

      Yeah, I tend to feel I need to write the first draft in as focused and direct a manner as possible. Almost to get it down as if there’s no tomorrow. Well, or at my rate, no next year. And then I can fix all the things in it that need fixing.

      I wonder if Angelou’s is an intellectualization of the writing that I can’t afford at the beginning. Hm. Well, time will tell, right? 🙂

      Thanks for coming by and sharing your method. 🙂 And GOOD LUCK! 🙂

  2. ralfast says:

    I wrote some notes, but I concentrate on writing the first draft, to get the words down on the page. The story evolves and changes as need be.

    • sputnitsa says:

      Yeah, that’s the thing with stories… They evolve.

      I wonder if I’ll leave the Angelou method till later on, maybe while I’m letting my first draft sit in preparation for editing… I think attacking each theme or issue from every side might be good for deepening a story, but we’ll see how it fares under my tutelage! 🙂

  3. Beth says:

    I tend to write everything out longhand; I feel that I produce better writing that way! This could be why my NaNoWriMo novel was so terrible…

    But do I write down everything I know at once? No. I don’t know how my story will progress. Maybe I’ll try the Angelou method after I’ve finished the first draft, but who knows?

    Though, I suppose to some extent I do use this method. I like to explore my characters’ internal lives, their hopes and dreams and darkest secrets (all longhand). This could be writing down everything I know on the subject!

    • sputnitsa says:

      By terrible, I assume you mean your hand hurt like hell!!! 🙂

      Interesting. I haven’t written anything “completely” in longhand. I do like to imagine JKR scribbling away in a cafe somewhere, of course. And I myself scribble down ideas, notes, motivations, realizations, possible plot points, character names, etc in my own little writing journal. But I’ve never delved really deep and long into something in longhand.

      I do think I’ll maybe do this after the draft’s done. 🙂

      It’s probably a great idea to do this for characters, like you do, Beth.. 🙂

      • Beth says:

        I actually wrote the majority of it on a word processor! As I didn’t do nearly enough longhand thinking, the work suffered.

        I’ve only written one longish piece completely by hand; it was the LOTR fan fiction that ended up in the recylcing bin.

        Longhand writing just feels more permanent. I can’t hit the “delete” key.

  4. ralfast says:

    I started writing on blog format, but then switched to longhand. I can’t really write on a word processor except for short stories. For some reason I stare at the blank page and nothing comes out.

    • sputnitsa says:

      The cool thing about longhand is that you can bring your notes with you anywhere. Super light, super portable. Ready to be whipped out at a moment’s notice. 🙂

      It feels better, too, and a piece of paper is just a much friendlier thing than a screen. I hope we’re saving our wrists!!

  5. I do that with my characters at times, but not always with my subjects. Love your blog! Keep those words flowing!

    • sputnitsa says:

      Thanks Lori! I love yours, too. Good luck with the book, and thanks for coming by!

      Hm, so far I’m apparently in the minority, not doing full-out studies of my characters… Interesting 🙂 When do you do your in-depth write-ups? I mean, at what point of your WIP?

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