Writing is a process, and one of the important steps that should be included in that process is pre-writing. It may sound strange that you would write before writing, but pre-writing can help you figure out a lot of important elements of your story. When you’re gearing up to work on a long-form project, like a novel, you will want to have as much information about your characters as possible. Pre-writing is what helps you unlock that information, which you can use to furnish your story with rich and realistic details.
In a recent post on Writer Unboxed, Young Adult author Robin LaFevers talked all about the subject of pre-writing. In the post, Robin writes about the importance of backstory. Robin says, “The backstory is what clues the reader in to why THIS event is so cataclysmic for THIS character. Why this hurdle has the potential to flatten her. Why this relationship is so critical to her well being. Why this situation she finds herself in will force her to grow or change in terrifying new ways.”
In order to include that rich backstory and make your readers understand why certain events matter to your characters, you need to know that backstory ahead of time. By pre-writing through the character’s point of view, or by simply writing a stream of consciousness piece about the character’s personality and past, you will discover that backstory. You can create a repository of information that can be referenced when you begin your actual writing.
You might be thinking that you could discover this backstory during your first draft, which tends to be discovery writing anyway. On this topic, Robin says, “I get that some people do this in early drafts, and I used to be one of them, but more and more I have begun to take the time to learn this [information] in pre-writing and thus save myself a number of unfruitful drafts.” I find this to be a really important point. Discovery writing does happen in first drafts, but it’s often the material that you throw out when constructing your final draft. You’ll be saving yourself time and editing energy if you don’t have to include that unnecessary information in your actual draft.
I hope this information helped you and gave you some insight into the practice of pre-writing. If you are interested in participating in National Novel Writing Month, then now is the time to start your pre-writing!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan