Professional writers have a writing process. For everything. For fiction, nonfiction — there’s always a process. Beginning writers write, but pro writers build.
They start by creating the raw material. In my Top 70 Writing Tips, I called creating your raw materials making mud:
Look on all the writing you do as “making mud”. Be exuberant and messy.
You can do a lot with your mud. Just as you can build entire houses with mud bricks, you can write articles, novels, nonfiction books, short stories, essays, memoirs – in short, you can write anything and everything, if you make the basic building material, the “mud” first.
You can relax when you tell yourself that you’re just making mud
Once you realize that you’re just “making mud” when you’re writing, you stop worrying. There’s nothing serious about mud. You just write, and you know that you’ll sort out your creations later.
I’m winding up a long fiction project, and am planning a new trilogy. I’ve started creating the mud:
- Scene locations
- Character attributes and descriptions
- Potential flaws for my main characters
- And so on…
Usually I write my mud, and never look at it again. Its sole purpose is to kickstart my subconscious mind. At heart, I’m a fiction-writing pantser, but I know the plot points I have to hit, so I plan them in advance. That gives me a rough framework on which to hang my fiction.
By the way, if you’re not a fiction writer, a “pantser” is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, doing minimal plotting
This new project is a trilogy, so I’m planning the overall plot arcs… by making mud.
You need lots of materials to create anything
New authors want to write a project from go to whoa. It’s possible to do that, and sometimes you’ll manage it. However, it’s stressful.
Making mud is easier. It’s faster, too. You’ll also find that your writing inevitably improves, because you’re not insisting that your writing be perfect, at any stage.
The “mud” process is essential when you’re writing marketing materials. I explain my building-blocks process for copywriting in Copywriting for Writers. You create copy blocks, and then you put them together to write a sales page or series of advertisements, or whatever copy you’re writing.
Start a project by asking yourself what you need to create for that project
Write down the answer. “Write for this project I need”… and start thinking on paper.
Please do this.
I encourage my writing students to think on paper (or on the computer screen), because it saves time. Writers get stuck on projects because they haven’t broken down the project into tasks, and then they try to start writing immediately, without any form of pre-writing.
You can look on making mud as a form of prewriting. Essentially, it breaks your inertia, so you get moving on your projects.
Try it yourself. When making mud becomes part of your writing process, you’ll write more, and much more easily.
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