In followup to “Sick Boy McCoy’s” comment that “most of writing happens conceptually before we type/write one word,” I’m in full agreement. Writing doesn’t happen when you sit down at a keyboard. I’m almost transcribing thoughts at that point. Much of the story’s already in my head.
As a writer, one of the most important physical tools I keep with me at all times is a tiny notebook. It fits in the back pocket of my jeans. I may be in a restaurant, on a train, in a plane, or standing on a corner when I have a thought, hear a conversation, whatever – that triggers an idea. I can guarantee that if you think, “I’ll have to write that down later,” 99% of the time, you’ll forget it. I’ve written thoughts down in a darkened Broadway theatre or in my bed in the middle of the night. I can’t even see the paper I’m writing on, but I’ve got the thought preserved at the end of the show or when I awaken in the morning.
There’ve been times when that little notebook’s been filled to overflowing, and I recently used a napkin for a “thought/idea” that came to me while sitting in The Garage jazz club in New York City. Seriously. But, if you do something ridiculous like that, put the napkin/shred of paper someplace safe, like your wallet, so it doesn’t accidently get discarded. This is nitty gritty advice, but it’s important.
And, if you spend a lot of your time in the cold climates of the world, always carry a pencil, as well as a pen. Pens have a horrible habit of “freezing up” when it gets too cold. Pencils can save the day.
Having said that “most of writing happens conceptually before we type,” there are times when my characters take over while I’m writing. It’s important not to “parent” our characters. We have to let them live and grow, and sometimes they grow away from where I was taking them, even as I’m writing on the page.