Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series.
Find Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.
Welcome to week seven of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, where we are writing books together. I posted Chapter 5 of THIRST yesterday over on my author website. Click here to read it.
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.
Week three was Storyworld. Week four: maps and floorplans. Week five: protagonists and main characters. Week six: side characters.
Today's Topic: PrewritingPrewriting is different for everyone. Some authors use it a lot. Some rarely do. And there are lots of different types of prewriting. Steph, Shannon, and I haven't talked a whole lot about actual prewriting here on Go Teen Writers. Here are some helpful posts I found that you can take a look at:
Archived posts for prewriting:
Planning a Novel a guest post from Rebecca Luella Miller
James Scott Bell Shares His Process For Brainstorming a New Novel
Help! My Character is Perfect! Developing Backstory
Creating a Historical Timeline for Your Novel
Story Brainstorming Questions
How To Have An Effective Brainstorming Session (with others)
10 Types of PrewritingAs I said, there are lots of types of prewriting. Here is a quick list:
1. Brainstorming: This is when you sit down and make a list of all kinds of things for your story. It could be a list on a specific topic like your main character or storyworld. Or it could be a list of ideas for scenes. If you find yourself stuck in a certain area, it might be a good idea to sit down and brainstorm a list of things that could get you unstuck.
2. Mind-mapping: This is when you start with one word and draw spokes for words that come off that first one, creating a diagram of thoughts inspired by that central word or idea. I've always used this for plotting, but it can be interesting to do this for your characters. Or even to put all your character names on that same sheet of paper and draw lines back and forth to represent ways they interact in the story. If you don't have many lines in a certain area, this could be a sign that you could do a little more brainstorming to add a connection there.
3. Freewriting: This is when you sit down and start writing about your story. Let the muse whisk you away. You could write this from one character's POV or your own, as a narrator explaining the story to another person. Whatever works to get the ideas flowing.
4. Backstory: This is when you write out the backstory for your world or your characters. When I write backstories, I tend to do them one at a time. So I'll write one for my storyworld. Then I might write another for a specific nation or city. I wrote a historical backstory for The Mission League organization that my Mission League books are based upon. It was strictly to help me know where the organization came from and how it works so that my characters could discuss it now and then. I've also written character backstories. These would start out as if I was writing about my own life history. Something like: I was born in Michigan. My parents moved to Alaska when I was five. I'm the oldest of five kids. I grew up in a house with no electricity or running water. Etc... Then I'd get more specific as the backstory relates to the story. Writing character backstories can be helpful because it provides a way for you to get to know your characters better and sometimes inspires you with new ideas.
5. Talk Show Host: This is when you act as though you are interviewing your character(s). Pretend you're Dr. Phil and start out with just the facts: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Once you know what happened, you can dig deeper to learn more. What your character says might surprise you. Here are a list of questions I adapted from Stephanie's Story Brainstorming Questions sheet. (Click here to print it.) But as the Talk Show Host, you can ask your characters anything that you think your audience wants to know.
If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
What’s your family like?
What do you value?
What lie do you believe?
Why do you believe that lie? What happened in your past that caused you to believe that?
What's the most important thing in your life?
Why do you care so much about that?
What is your goal in this story?
Why is that goal important?
What are you prepared to sacrifice to achieve that goal?
What happens if you don’t reach that goal?
Who are your allies and who are your enemies?
Is there a part of your past that can come back to haunt you?
What is your greatest fear?
6. Story Synopsis: This is a one- to two-page, single spaced document that tells an overview of your story and usually accompanies a submission to an agent or editor. In the prewriting process, though, it doesn't have to be perfect, single-spaced, or one- to two-pages. Writing out the play-by-play of what happens in your story can help you see where there are holes, and help you stay on track as you write. Here are two posts on writing synopses:
Organizing a Synopsis
Writing Your Synopsis
7. Research: I talked about research a little already on the storyworld building week. But I sometimes like to prewrite a page or two when I have something I want to understand better. For example, in THIRST, I have some prewriting I did on my disease and on how my Comet Pulon worked. And for my book The New Recruit, I did a lot of research about Moscow, so I did some prewriting on that to get a feel for what it was like to visit that place.
8. Helps Lists: These are simply lists of things you'll want to have handy as you write. This could be things you researched, like smells and sights one might see often when driving in the city of Moscow. In THIRST, I have a SURVIVAL acronym that Eli uses throughout the story to help him stay focused, so I have that handy in case I can't remember it. I also have a page that lists the gun types the boys have, because I can never remember them. I have a page on the symptoms of the hydro-flu, that way when my characters come upon an infected person and I need to describe them, I have my handy cheat-sheet close by. For my Blood of Kings books, I had a list of healing herbs and what they were used for to help me remember what Vrell had in her satchel. I also had a list of my made-up language, complete with translations, so when it came time to write more magic spells, I was ready.
9. Maps: We talked about maps in Week 4, but maps and floorplans are a type of prewriting. So are timelines and calendars and cross-sections for boats or buildings. Anything that helps you visually see a place or time.
10. Brainstorming with Others: This is when you gather with one or more people and ask them to help you brainstorm something. This could be brainstorming a story from scratch. Or it could be brainstorming your way through a problem in the story. It's helpful if you designate another person to be the note taker so that you can focus completely on the discussion without having to worry about writing everything down. Steph wrote a great post on this called: How To Have An Effective Brainstorming Session (with others).
The point of prewriting is to help you prepare to start writing the book, so that you will be able to forge ahead without needing to stop to look things up. You might still have to do that, but if you can prewrite a little and prepare, you won't likely need to stop nearly as much.