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…
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.
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 and this 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.