In elementary school, we called it pre-writing.

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In elementary school, there were rules for everything. How to sit, how to walk in line, how to put your name on the top right hand of your paper. And of course, there were rules for writing. Pre-writing, drafting, proof-reading. Notice, there was not much re-writing, even though Ernest Hemmingway said all writing is re-writing. But our little fourth grade selves didn’t read much Hemmingway.

But we did pre-writing. Which meant research, note cards, and outlines. They made it seem easy – after you received your topic, you went to the library card catalog and looked up books, articles, and journals about your topic. As you read through the information, you wrote short notes and quotes on lined 3×5 index cards. After that, you arranged the index cards in order, used them to make an outline, then wrote the paper. After it was written, you proofed it and poof! Paper complete.

We were even taught to write poems and short stories the same way, basically.

Now that I have been writing fiction for a while, what I have learned is that pre-writing is not taking notes, making outlines, or things like that. Nope. It’s the first draft that is really pre-writing. None of my finished projects look anything like the first draft. It’s the rewriting, rewording, reordering, replotting, and rereading that makes a book. So, while NaNoWriMo is marketed as a Write a Book in a Month!! challenge, for me, it’s a pre-writing exercise. Some people have all their characters and plots and outlines ready on October 31st, but where is the fun of that? I get a character or two, toss them into a crisis and see what happens next. That is what is fun for me. If I know what is going to happen next, why write it at all? Which I suppose is why I have a hard time editing if I am not writing big changes to characters or plots.

So in ten days, it begins. A 30-day prewriting exercise. Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year?