Prewriting: An Important Step You Shouldn’t Skip

For a very long time, I felt it was a waste of time to do anything other than sit down and write the story.  Writing time is precious.  We all know that.  So why bother with anything else?

Prewriting is pretty much just preparing yourself for the work you have ahead.  It doesn’t have to be painful when you realize that it will make the writing itself so much easier.  You don’t have to stop and decide where your characters are going to meet for lunch or wonder if you got the color of Billy’s car correct.  You won’t be interrupting your writing time by searching the internet for the perfect house for your main character.  So just how do you perform this miracle, anyway?

Character Profiles – If there’s anything I hate, it’s getting halfway through a story and forgetting what color a character’s eyes are.  Cue the character profile!  You can find templates for these all over the internet, but I often just make my own as I go.  You need to know what your character looks like, any quirks they might have, what they do for a living, or how they might act in certain situations.  Personally, I like to put a picture in my character profile so there’s never any question what they look like.

Plotting – This section is not for the pantsers out there!  I find great benefit in writing out my plot.  I like to know where I’m heading and how I’m going to get there.  That’s not to say that things never change as I’m writing.  My characters have been known to do what they want occasionally, but I don’t like to feel stuck partway through the story.

Settings – Where is your story taking place?  Is there a quaint café in a small town?  Or a biker bar with vintage beer signs?  Having a sense of setting is important to making a story seem real, and this can be even more important if you’re working in science fiction or fantasy.  Make drawings or look up pictures that ring true to the story you’re telling.  If the book takes place in the town you live in or grew up in, don’t just assume you know it the same way that someone who had never been there would.  Go out and find the little details that make the story real.

I know there are plenty of people out there who still aren’t interested in prewriting.  That’s okay, and you should do whatever works for you.  But I find that when I’ve done my homework, I can crank out 2,000 words in less than an hour.  That’s all the proof I need.  I never really understood the importance of prewriting until college, but I wish I had discovered it much sooner.

How do you write?  Let me know in the comments!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.




Filed under On Writing

16 responses to “Prewriting: An Important Step You Shouldn’t Skip

  1. Heide

    I don’t write fiction, but I still prewrite little snippets as they come to mind. At the very least it helps me overcome writer’s block — and sometimes the little snippets coalesce into a new an unexpected idea or direction. So yes, I agree prewriting is well worth the time. Great post, Ashley!

  2. Excellent article! I’ve gradually become less of a pantser over time, but I’m still a discovery writer in a lot of ways.

  3. S. M. Shuford

    I completely agree! This helps a lot with preventing continuity problems in the story too, which are all too easy to make. Great article 🙂

  4. Jonathan

    I realised a lot of these things while watching somebody demonstrate Scrivener one time – which takes you through a lot of the pre-writing automatically. It’s a no-brainer once you realise.

  5. I started using excel. A little tricky with all the box size adjustments, but I find it very useful.

  6. Cool post! Thanks for the visit and follow.

  7. arichristy

    I love your blog! I do prewriting, maybe not as well or thoroughly as I should. Typically when I get to a point where, like you said, I forget a character’s eye color is when I realize, ‘Oh. I should probably outline this.’ It’s hard though because when you have a new idea, you just want to go and tell the story! It’s important to realize that prewriting allows us to slow down and identify the specifics.

  8. Good to know these tips from an author like you.. i think everything becomes sharp with a “ game plan” . I have mostly written features for news papers as a writer so far. Still I can get what you are talking about here. Whenever I write a longer piece, it is certainly good to plan ahead. But I should confess, sometimes I get excited and jump in to the task and do the prewriting in my head! I understand writing is an art plus a craft- craft bit needs planning. Isn’t it?Thanks for the tips…

  9. Pingback: Writing Exercise: Business Names | Ashley O'Melia, Author

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