#4. Think Before You Write

Now for an obvious but hugely important writing rule that will save you all kinds of headaches and heartaches:

#4. Think before you write.

Duh. You knew that. And so did I, sort of…the trick here is that I don’t just mean think about what you’re going to write before you write it, whether it’s a text or a story. We all do that anyway. What I mean is that you should think really hard about what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, whether you even need to say/write it, how you’re going to organize this particular piece of writing. All that good and difficult stuff.

The great writer Iris Murdoch talked about sitting quietly and letting the story come together in your head: “One should be patient and extend this period as far as possible.”

James Harrison, the poet and novelist, would take his stories out for a walk in the woods and work through them mentally. An interviewer once asked him how he wrote his novella Legends of the Fall in just nine days, and Harrison said it was easy because he’d been plotting it all in his head for years.

“I think about my novels for a long time before I start to write them—a year or more, sometimes many years. I’m half Swede, and Swedes are brooders. I just sit around brooding about it. A lot of this happens when I’m walking or driving.”

So take your story, article, essay, novel, or important text message out for a walk. Go for an aimless drive. Turn the idea around a little in your head. Think first, and deeply, before you start, and the story will be easier to write when it does start to come together.


On a different note, here’s the cover of my next book, coming out on March 21st. More on this one another time. Thanks for reading!