Jimmy M.'s picture
Jimmy M. from New England March 30, 2014 - 5:23pm

What are your opinions on prewriting? Do you think it's necessary to prewrite for a novel? What are your methods going about it?

I'm a little torn personally about it; it seems like every time I start prewriting for a story I end up giving up on it or not liking it as much as I should. My method is to try to do basic lists about characters and their traits, and things about the plot, but nothing really intricate.

justwords's picture
justwords from suburb of Birmingham, AL is reading The Tomb, F. Paul Wilson; A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby March 30, 2014 - 10:26pm

I think you're overthinking it. Other more experienced and more talented folks here can give you better pointers than I can; as an editor, none of the authors I've worked with are that organized. Are you talking about first drafts?

I know some authors who keep notes, 3" x 5" cards, or a running notepad/memo pad on computer to keep track of multiple characters and/or story lines.

BTW, pretty much anything PK Dick wrote is good by my standards.


Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated March 31, 2014 - 1:29am

There is one test for any method; does it help you create content you like?

I know that I prepare way more than my friends who are panters and way less than my friends who are planners, but I don't do it like percolators.




Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers March 31, 2014 - 6:20am

I used to be a pantser, but found myself abandoing projects because my inital idea wasn't fully developed into a story. If I managed to actual develop a story, then the necessary tug-a-war ebb and flow of conflict wasn't fully taken advantage of in the narration. 

The one piece I can give you is that you need to create beats with But/Therefore transitions. You don't want a list of beats with 'and then..." between them. You want a lot of But...this happened, or therefore...this happened. Doesn't seems like much, but trust me, those two words are powerful.


A good book about structure is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Check it out, it has really helped me understand the mechanisms that turn an idea into a story. The idea here is that no matter how you write it, whether by the seat of your pants, or by creating detailed outlines/beat sheets/structure, you will get the same results if the concept is well developed, it just depends on how many drafts you want to write to get there. 

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer March 31, 2014 - 9:03am

It depends on the writer. I know writers that are paralyzed by outlines. I am one of them. I usually start with a first line or a simple scenario. I find that if I have a heavily outlined story, I stick too close to the outline and my idea, ironically, never fully develops organically. On the other hand, one of my good friends outlines, makes note cards, moves them around bulletin boards like a storyboard, and maps out everything prior to the first draft.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami March 31, 2014 - 3:26pm

I prewrite in the sense (that's these days I'm speaking of, I used to be real real big on outlining) where I write a philosophy of fiction writing.

I also do a chapter by chapter one a story that's been jumbling around in my head for about a month, just to get the initial idea out of my head. And then I see a week after that if it's still worth persuing.

Jimmy M.'s picture
Jimmy M. from New England April 6, 2014 - 3:09pm

Hey, thanks everyone! I think I might actually be overthinking it, but I seem to have a problem with persuing writing. Even if it turns out to be terrible, I really have the urge to want to finish it. But, I really din't have a lot of experience writing a lot, this year was actually the first year ever where I write 2 hours a day.

Anyway, thanks for all your input! Bob, I'll be sure to check out that book.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal April 9, 2014 - 11:01am

@ Dwayne

I always enjoy the links you post.  I declare you "link master" of the board.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated April 10, 2014 - 6:51pm

Thank you, I'll do my best to keep making relivant links a thing you see.

Jordan Blum's picture
Jordan Blum from Philadelphia, PA is reading various novels (for review) and journal submissions April 14, 2014 - 4:06pm

I usually use a lengthy outline template for each character. I got it from a teacher in graduate school and it really helps me. It looks like this:

Favorite Music:

...you get the point.


Grigori Black's picture
Grigori Black from US is reading Radium Girls by Amanda Gowin April 16, 2014 - 7:51am

I'm a bit of a mix. So far my best successes (completing a story) have come from two methods: Turning a short story into a full length story 70K-90K+) and doing a tentative chapter break down. I find that every time I do the latter, I wind up changing it multiple times. To me, that's half the point of doing an outline. Hashing out the overall story as a guideline. I have yet to stick to an outline exactly start to finish.

Jordan Blum's picture
Jordan Blum from Philadelphia, PA is reading various novels (for review) and journal submissions April 18, 2014 - 9:36am

Yeah, it's rare that the story follows the initial outline very closely. I usually change a lot as I go, even if I thought I had it all sorted out when I finished the outline.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated April 18, 2014 - 3:03pm

I don't change things so much as I add to it. "Bob opened the door," becomes, "Bob opened the door because he was hot and wanted to let in a cool sea breeze."