Do you start three different stories, but never manage to finish one? Are you familiar with starting at a blank page for hours because you do not know where to start? If yes, you might just benefit from creative prewriting.
Creative prewriting is a technique that helps with the preparation of writing a novel. It includes brainstorming, character creation, plotting, outlining, and drafting. Thanks to the organized approach, the author gets a better overview of their tasks. This makes creative prewriting highly efficient.
If you are looking for a more organized approach to your writing, or tools to finally write that first draft, prewriting is a good way to start. Read on to discover more on this writing technique, which is often used by academics, and find out how you can use it to create your next masterpiece.
How does creative prewriting help authors?
Writing is a unique process, but almost all authors have one thing in common. We all have a start point. It could be an inspiring scene your saw on tv, a conversation you overheard, or something like an assignment or prompt.
Creative prewriting helps authors during the early stages of the writing process. As thoughts and ideas start the form, the techniques will help with clearing out the head and organizing thoughts. This allows writers to create a structured plan for their first draft.
By mapping out the story step by step, you will get a bird’s-eye view. This will help you discover plot holes early. It also gives you more insight into how to build up the story. You will see which spots could use a little bit more work, and which are really strong.
When I wrote my book Als het licht verdwijnt, I made a strong outline before I started writing. The idea of writing about a man waking up in a casket popped into my head. I used prewriting to make sure that by the end of my story all questions were answered, but people were also shaken up. The execution of the story depended on this process.
What are prewriting techniques?
Creative prewriting can exist out of several techniques. The art of reading like a writer, brainstorming, researching, character creation, and drafting are the most well-known. Other techniques include mind mapping, listing, vision boarding, question cueing, creating dump files, and making flashcards.
A few of the most popular creative prewriting techniques are writing prompts, character/world-building, and outlining. Most of us do this without thinking about it, but I found that being more conscious about this process, will really help you with elevating your stories.
Short prompts and writing assignments work really well to keep the creative juices flowing, but when you want to move on to something more serious, planning will become necessary. It will help you keep track of where you are in the story, what it is you are working towards, and what information to give to your audience. Outlining, for example, is a prewriting technique that can help with that.
How do I start creative prewriting?
When you just start out, brainstorming is a good place to start. You could do this with the help of alphabet cueing. It’s really simple. Write down every letter of the alphabet and then 3 to 5 words behind it. For example:
A: apple, arsenic, automation, anchor, attic
B: Bee, broadsword, ballistic, basement, bombing
When you have done this, you can cluster the words to get word groups. Like arsenic, and bombing, for example, or attic and basement. But you can also play with words that give you a certain vibe. Anchor and broadsword could take you back to the middle ages, for example. Apples and bees could be about nature. Play around and see what you come up with.
When you are done brainstorming, and you have a feeling of the story you want to tell, start asking yourself questions. For my book, I asked myself why would he wake up in a coffin? How did he get there? What happened? Make sure you always answer your five w’s and 2 h’s: who, what, where, when, why, how, and how long.
What are the stages of creative prewriting?
As a general rule, creative prewriting can be broken up into five stages; thinking, researching, outlining, structuring, and drafting. Each step builds on the previous, allowing the author to expand and add more detail.
The first stage is the thinking stage. It starts right after the inspiration hits you. You can begin with brainstorming, listing ideas, or mind mapping. Other popular techniques during this stage are creating character profiles and world-building.
The second stage is the research stage, and it comes right after your idea has taken on more form. Well-known techniques are investigating, gathering pictures, reading on the topics, and watching videos. This is also a good point to start creating your dump file. That’s a document in which you gather all relative information.
During the third stage, it’s time to outline your story. Write down how you will get from start to finish, with all the key moments in between. Set goals and intentions for your characters, analyze the core conflict and theme of your story and get familiar with the world by doing some free writing.
You will structure and polish your story even more during the fourth stage. After outlining your story, have a look at the structure. What are the five acts, when do you want the reader to have certain information, at what point do you want your story to peak? Are the 5 w’s and 2 h’s answered?
The fifth stage might be the most exciting of them all. When you are done planning, plotting, and structuring, it’s time to actually write. Get all those ideas out onto paper. Do not go back and edit your work during this drafting period. Let the story flow out. Keep in mind that drafting is part of prewriting. The real writing is yet to come. So no worries.
Creative prewriting is for pantsers and plotters
It doesn’t matter if you like to write by the seat of your pants or want to have everything plotted out exactly how it will appear in your book, prewriting works for all authors.
If you like the story to lead you a bit more, make sure you don’t go into too much detail during the outlining phase. For plotters, I recommend watching yourself during the research phase. Don’t get sucked into the vortex. You have to do some actual writing at one point.
Whatever your flavor, conscious prewriting will make you more aware of your story structure. That alone will lift up your writing. The hard work, however, is as always left to you. But I have a strong feeling that you know what to do.
Go get ‘em, tiger!