Writing is more than putting words on a page. There. I’ve said it. A heretic notion.

KeyboardEven more, putting words on a page, while vital in having a thing others can read, may be half, or perhaps even a third or less, of the work necessary to getting a book or story written. Because there is such a focus on word count – and don’t get me wrong, tracking word count can be a useful tool – I know that I, at least, tend to diminish the value of all the other parts of writing that are not putting actual words on a page.

For the past few weeks I have been in a hiatus between having a thing to write, and thinking about what I want to write next. It’s a deeply uncomfortable position for me, and that has made me wonder why I hate this stage. It made me realize that I don’t consider myself as “writing” if I’m not physical writing. So I’m working to revamp my notions of being a writer.

Regardless of whether you’re an outliner or a pantser, there are so many things that have to happen in order to have a story. You have to have an idea, and ideas come from the strangest places. Standing in line at a coffee shop you might overhear something that gives you the tingle of an idea. Reading a book. Going for a walk and letting your mind wander. Mulling ideas while lying in bed trying to sleep. All this is as much part of writing as typing words.

Then there’s the thinking part. Who are these characters anyway? Doing research. (Oh research. Sometimes I think being a writer is my excuse to do research.) Where does the story begin? How does it end? Making notes. Planning the emotional arc of your story. Thinking about interesting events that could happen to your characters. Considering structure. Is it three acts? Five? One? Then there’s themes and voice. So many choices!

You might think about why you want to write -this- story. What is it that makes it important, amusing, interesting to you? What about this story will keep you working on it when it’s hard and it seems like you can’t write any good words, or maybe not even a word at all. Why this particular story?

If you’re a writer, there isn’t a moment that you aren’t writing. You’re always both in the world, and observing the world. Weighing what you see and experience and hear so that you have it someday, maybe years from now when you need that particular piece of coffee shop conversation – perhaps transitioned out of its current location to a space academy on Mars