The Happenings of a Pre-Write: The Good and the Bad

Bad good

 

by Samantha Fenton

Some authors swear by pre-writing and can’t imagine it any other way. These authors may pre-write and plan for weeks or months before they write the first word of their rough draft, meticulously planning scenes and mapping characters to ensure everything makes sense. Others prefer to sit down and start writing. These authors may have a vague plan in their heads, but they never go to lengths of planning the way the pre-writers do. Authors like this favor letting the story flow as it pleases and write on the spot.

I have written both ways – with a pre-write and without – and can tell you there are pros and cons to each…

 

Pre-writing cons:

1. Blocky scenes and rough transitions. My pre-write largely consisted of identifying major scenes and “plot twists” to my new book. So I wrote to those. The problem of always having a list scenes and characters to introduce sitting right beside you, is that sometimes it gets difficult to move from one to another. I knew the scene I was writing, and I knew the next one, but I didn’t know how to get from one to another. This left me with far too many scene breaks in odd places and less of a flowing story. The cuts between events left too much to be desired and had, even myself, wondering how the story went for “a” to “b.

2. Blocking of creativity and no surprises. Some non-prewriting writers don’t like pre-writing because it can potentially limit your creativity when writing your rough draft. Linking to the blocking of creativity, authors who are against pre-writing believe there is generally little opportunity for your story to “surprise” you.

I’m not one to pre-write every little sentence (which at that point I think is basically writing a rough draft), so I don’t come across this too much. A lot of times, even when I do a pre-write, I stumble across a sub-plot which I write in that wasn’t originally part of my pre-write. I think you can still be creative in your rough draft if you pre-write, and surprises still happen in my new story when writing. Of course, this could be very different depending how an author pre-writes and plans.

3. It’s tedious. Sometimes you just want to dive right into writing your next book, and the idea of slowing down and planning everything out makes you twitchy and antsy. Making a character map for every character can get boring, and maybe even stress you out. I think the problem some writers have with this resides on the way they’re pre-writing.

 

Pre-writing pros:

1. You can’t get lost. If you do your pre-writing right, there’s little chance of a mess up half way through the book. Let me give you an example: I’m reading through my rough draft as the start of my first round of revisions, only to discover a major plot hole. Major as in “I’m gonna have to rewrite the entire second half of my book because I wrote what should’ve been Tuesday as Monday and now the butterfly effect had taken hold of everything else andthis is terrible.”

Another example of this could be when you’ve described this character’s eye color as blue one time and green another… and now you have to delete a lot of sentences describing the character because it doesn’t make sense anymore.

2. Brainstorming is fun. I love to brainstorm things. I love to plan things. Something I think of as “fun” is making lists about things. So, yeah, I like the brainstorming part of pre-writing because of the endless possibilities.

3. Pre-writing allows stories to be more complex. I wrote my first book without a pre-write, and the rough draft resulted in a boring timeline of “this happened, then this happened because of that.” It took a long time to go back and add in some interesting plot twists and ensure the beginning made sense with the ending.

4. It’s difficult when you don’t. When I first started writing my last book without a pre-write, I didn’t have any idea as to where I wanted the story to go or how I wanted it to end. None. Zero. Trust me when I say it is not easy to write a book when you don’t know how it ends. This left most of my book bearing no meaning with no foreshadowing, no hidden meaning, and no mystery. Nothing to really keep the readers guessing about what’s going to happen next, because I didn’t even know. Boring.

If you pre-write, even if it’s just a well thought out ending, then at least you have something to write to. I think the saying goes: A little bit is better than nothing.

 

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Samantha Fenton. Samantha lives in Ridgefield, Washington on a beautiful ten acres filled with many beloved pets. Samantha is currently striving to traditionally publish, as well as enjoying her passion for golf. 

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20 thoughts on “The Happenings of a Pre-Write: The Good and the Bad”

  1. I never knew that it had a name! 😳 I do it woth battle scenes but not with events surrounding the battles. I think that’s where ADD helps because I always forget I pre wrote the battle and seem to wing it. When I go back and read it, it looks new to me. If it looks weird, I end up changing it anyway. ☺️

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  2. I’ll create a timeline in a Word .doc of major events in a logical sequence. It’s not a true pre-write, but more of a list of bullet points. That tends to keep me on tack. I don’t consider this list written in stone, as I may make many changes to the events and characters.

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  3. In the past I did a synopsis, which is a cross between synopsis and a time line. And as I create the characters I do a Character study. Now I do a little more formal timeline. I am still a pantser with a little additional thought of what will happen to my hero or heroine. I read everything about how to block and all that, and am getting better. I loved this. Will try. Thanks.

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  4. I have pre-written every story I’ve ever written, and for me, it doesn’t stymie spontaneity in the least. I like having a road map in my head, but if something shiny leads me off the beaten path, I’ve no problem chasing that light. For over a decade I had the ending of my first paranormal romance novel in my head, but when I finally drew near it, a random thought sitting at work turned into a revelation, and I knew I had to change the end.

    I also don’t think my anxiety would ever allow me to just write something off the cuff. I’m always terrified of sitting down to my computer to write and nothing coming out :O

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  5. I’ve heard of people doing story boards and the process sounded pretty complicated to me. I do very little before I start writing and normally write at least 3 chapters before I do any planning.

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  6. I always pre-write. The three-act structure isn’t a suggestion, it’s an instruction. Every good story has been told with a three act structure, which means that I’ll always plan the story according to where the story beats go. This isn’t limiting the story, it’s making the story. I’ve started writing immediately from an idea, but it turned out to be a long form synopsis. The three-act structure is the test of whether an idea can work, so I always plan that out. I’ll sometimes write the first two pages just to get into the protagonist’s mind, but then I won’t continue the story until I’ve written the structure. As it is, I have a writing group to share it with, who can give feedback on what works on what doesn’t, so I’ve drafted the structure numerous times until it works. The first draft and the latest draft are like night and day; it works so much better now. Because I pre-write, I’ve made sure the story works before I rush into something.

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    1. Your process seems as a blueprint in screenwriting. I write scripts, too, and this three act practice crosses over into writing a book, as well. After all, a story is still a story no matter what form it takes—novel, short story, or script.

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  7. Reminds me a bit of how George R. R. Martin says there are “architects” and “gardeners”. Architects plan everything out, while gardeners just plant a seed and see what grows. Everyone does it a bit different and I think it can also depend on the type of writing you’re doing.

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