Writing & Blogging

Steps to Writing a Book: Pre-Writing

Writing a novel is not an easy process. If it was, everyone would do it! Some people have a basic idea and are able to sit down and just start writing. I’m not one of those people. I need an outline and more than a general idea before I can start writing. This means that I do a lot of pre-writing, or the work needed before you start writing. Today I’m going to share my pre-writing process in case you’re struggling to get all the things done before you start writing, and I’m also sharing a bunch of resources to help you in case my personal process doesn’t seem like it will work for you.

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When you write a book, it's important to do some pre-writing. This is the process of getting all of you notes, research, outline, and more together. Out of all the steps to writing a book, this is an often over-looked but super necessary step!

My Pre-Writing Process

Do some free writing of either the book or an explanation of the book – Free writing is when you just put your pen/pencil to the paper and let it go. Write about whatever comes to your mind. Be like Elsa and let it go. So when I’m first getting started with a new idea, I do some free writing to get my ideas pumping.

Write some character sketches – I know what you’re thinking: you want me to write character sketches? Character sketches are not actual sketches unless you’re an artist, and then they might be. These are descriptions of your characters and they can be as descriptive as you want. I tend to start with basic descriptions (Becky is a high school senior who wants to get a leg up on her college applications) and then go to more detailed ones (she is average height with dark hair, she wants to make her parents proud, she wants to go to a good college).

World building/research – Depending on what type of book you’re writing, this could take a very short period of time or a very long one. M3 (novel 3) is a realistic fantasy novel, so this is taking forever because I need to create an entire society within our current society. But if you’re writing historical fiction, I imagine that this would also be time-consuming due to the fact that research is super necessary.

How To Build a World Like a Pro

Outline (less detailed) – I’m a big outline person because it helps me avoid hitting writer’s block a little bit. It also makes it easier for me to write because I know what everything is moving towards. When I start working on an outline, I focus first on the big picture items. What is the start? What is the climax? What is the ending? By starting with the big basics, I can later connect them in ways that move the story towards the ending.

Outline (more detailed) – After the big picture, I get a bit more specific. Or a lot more. The big question I ask myself is, “What needs to happen to get from point A to point B?” When I wrote Aureole, I planned out each scene in the entire book before I started writing. That was a little to confining for me, so when I wrote TLM (second novel), I wrote paragraphs describing what I wanted to happen in each of the five sections. This way, I knew what was going to happen, but I didn’t have pre-planned scenes that I needed to stick to while writing.

Thinking of writing a book? One of the important steps is pre-writing, and I'm sharing my personal pre-writing process as well as a lot of different resources to help you get ready to write your awesome book.

Pre-Writing Resources

Well-Storied Resources: Exploring the Five Layers of Pre-Writing, 3 Awesome Plot Structures for Building Bestsellers, 11 Steps To Turn Your Plot Bunny into a Full-Fledged Novel.

Life of a Storyteller Resources: How To Write a Novel Outline, Conducting Research for Your Novel, How To Mentally Prepare Yourself

Eva Deverell Resources: How To Use Plot Formulas, creative writing worksheets, How To Use Plot Formulas

Books: Structuring Your Novel (check out my review), Big Magic (check out my review), Outlining Your Novel

Types of outlines to try: The Snowflake Method, Hero’s Journey, Three-Act Structure, Freytag Model.

The Novel Planner – This is basically a planner for writers, and I love it. It helps you keep all your pre-writing notes in one place, which is so helpful.

The Pre-Write Project – This is a workbook that walks you through every element of pre-writing. If you don’t know where to start, I suggest starting here!

Novel in a Month Notebook – Pretty self-explanatory.

Outlining Your Novel Workbook Computer Program – This will help you “gain a big-picture view of your plot, character, and theme” right on your computer.

Tips and tricks for pre-writing so you can write an amazing book Click To Tweet

What does your pre-writing look like?

Like this post? Check out:

How To Build a World Like a Pro, Best Books on Writing, Tips for Writing from Famous Writers, How To Edit Your Novel without Hating Your Life

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  • Reply Amanda @ Anchored to Sunshine

    This is so exciting to hear you’re writing a novel! I’m so excited to follow along through your process. I always joke because of how much I read that I should try to write a book… maybe this will actually convince me.

    January 15, 2018 at 9:04 pm
    • Reply Kate Mitchell

      Thank you! I hope it does. It’s a terrifying and wonderful and awesome and amazing process.

      January 25, 2018 at 1:05 pm
  • Reply Cece @Mahogany Drive

    Helpful tips! I flew by the seat of my pants on my first novel and I vow I will never do that again. I think it took way longer, and I made a lot of mistakes that I had to re-write later. I actually do want to write another novel, and I’m definitely going to be using some outlining before I start the actual writing. Now, I just need to come up with an idea!!

    January 17, 2018 at 4:05 pm
    • Reply Kate Mitchell

      I could never do that (but that’s more my control-loving self than anything else). Good luck!

      January 25, 2018 at 1:06 pm
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