Prewriting is NOT a Waste of Time

And the birds sang, the trees swayed happily, and I was free.  Free to spend as long as I needed filling in character, backstory, synopsizing scenes, and outlining.

I have this from very reliable sources.  I recently took a Write It Forward workshop from Bob Mayer (on Twitter @Bob_Mayer) on Plot and Outline.  He says:

Failing to do this essential background work sabotages the story before you type your first word and becomes very apparent to readers as they progress in your work.

(Truly, this workshop was chock full of empowering, on-target info.  It would be worth the money to invest in one of the Write It Forward workshops.)

And then, there’s Roz Morris’ (on Twitter @NailYourNovel) Nail Your Novel (now on Kindle!  Yay!).  She says:

You’ll be prepared to start writing.  The preparation you have done will make the writing go faster.   You are less likely to get blocked and more likely to sail through to the end.

Buy Nail Your Novel or read the first 15 pages first.

I needed time before I started writing.  There’s  no end to the things I can do before writing.  Character bios and pictures, apartment layouts, city street maps, pictures of clothing, snippets of dialogue, whole scenes.  My One Note notebook already has about 15 pages in 3 sections and I haven’t even started plotting yet.  Okay, I have.  But not a lot.

The point is, I used to feel so bad for this time.  I love this creative time, where the ideas just come willy-nilly and, like a medium, I just jot them down as fast as I can and let them speak.  It’s so fun I actually have a name for it: writer crack.

But now, I’m giving myself permission to take this time.  To let my muse say everything she needs to say, to research whatever she needs to know, to act out scenes in my brain completely out of order and out of context.  Sure, a person could get lost on writer crack forever.  Maybe even need writer rehab. For me, though, when the times comes to start writing and I’m prepared, this process has generated so much excitement that it’s just the next step.

I guess people who get stuck in this are the same people who re-edit the first chapter over and over instead of finishing.   If there’s a glaring plot hole that you fixed, but your previous chapters are still pointing down another road, you should take some time to fix that.  Or see if you’ve made other holes that need filling now.

And that was total digression.  My point is, if a person is looking for excuses not to write, then those people just aren’t going to write.  Doesn’t matter what anyone says.  They’ve either got the guts to jump in or they don’t.

Don't confuse creative process knocking on your door with stalling. Click To Tweet

Maybe we just need to trust our instincts, and do what feels right.  And read those craft books and take those workshops and attend those conferences because if we are onto something, odds are someone else (with more experience) has already been there.


  1. Writer crack! Lol! It’s so true. Prewriting is my favorite part of the writing process. Everything is so fresh and naive still. My characters don’t realize how hard they’re going to have to work yet and the hell I’m going to put them through. Ahh, good times.

    I agree that you should trust your process. I do feel a shift when I reach the end of prewriting and am ready to get started. And then, you’ve just got to dive in!

  2. Author

    Mine, too. Then there’s a shift and my eye starts twitching and my brain gets all swampy and I know it’s time to start sorting through all the info they (the people in my head) have given me.

  3. Hi Lori, I’ve just found your site. I love the image on the left of your blogsite. Beautiful and intriguing. So enjoying this blog. Thank you.

  4. Thanks so much, Donna. It’s from a site called Full Moon Graphics (there’s a link on the bottom). It definitely spoke to me.

    I hope you enjoy my ramblings!

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