Archive for September 6th, 2006

In The 6 Stages of Writing, I had clarified the components of the Writing Process, and a follow up post discussed these stages as interrelated not separate stages. The first stage of the writing process begins with pre-writing. So this will be the first of a series of posts, which will look at each stage in greater depth. For a definition of each stage you can read my previous posts on this topic.

Pre-writing involves a number of strategies aimed at exploring your topic. Debbie and I found the use of an outline to be most useful. So we will begin first look at this strategy.

OUTLINE: Debby devised the outline based on our discussions. We had an overall theme in it of the importance of compassion. Then we developed a chapter-by-chapter structure based on certain topics we wanted to discuss. Originally our material was intended as a self-growth manual with insights and reflections. Over time, we realized that a narrative style would work better with our ideas and it would prove more interesting for us and readers, since it would involve a journey with each character. Outline can be complex or basic, depending on you and your writing. Here is the structure of our outline:

Main statement of our book: Follow the soul not the ego.

Chapter 1: Opening of novel with dramatic start and introduction to main character and his conflict

Chapter 2: Listening to Higher Guidance

Chapter 3: Introduction to retreat setting and characters there. Talk on trusting your intuition.

Chapter 4: Importance of inner peace

Chapter 5: Importance of motivation

Chapter 6: Compassion demonstrated by the main character

Chapter 7: Call to remove ego’s fear and hurt

Chapter 8: Ego versus soul

Chapter 9: Importance of discovering your Life Purpose and importance of Non-violence

Chapter 10: Fight with lower self or ego

Chapter 11: Violence versus Courage

Chapter 12: Conclusion

This was not our first outline because our story idea had changed from a contemplative book about ideas to a narrative story where readers could experientially understand our insights according to their understanding.

BRAINSTORMING: Basically this is coming up with a lot of ideas quickly without concern about filtering those ideas. These words or thoughts can be the raw material that will develop into a more structured outline. An example of brainstorming:

Brainstorming on Compassion

You can also connect different ideas together with brainstorming like “compassion” and words associated with it can relate them to “connection” and words relating to it. This is called clustering and it is another useful strategy for the pre-writing stage.


Clustering allows you to uncover relationships between ideas. It’s like a web of ideas on paper. Here is an example of a cluster.


5 W’S & H: These questions allow you expand on your topic or to clarify your ideas.

5 W’s are:

  1. Who?
  2. What?
  3. When?
  4. Where?
  5. Why?

Lone H:

  1. How?

These questions allow you to quickly develop your topic. Journalists often use these questions to scope out a story, you can use them to better understand your topic.

Pre-writing is a fun stage where your creativity can generate ideas. It’s a stage where your writing project is developing and you are giving your ideas a structure. So use the most appropriate strategy for your pre-writing development of your ideas.


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