I greatly admire J. K. Rowling—not just because I love the characters and the world she created, but also because I’m in awe of her ability to pre-write. You could stick me in a coffee house with a stack of napkins, but I’d come home with nothing more than doodles to show for my caffeine buzz. My brain does not have the ability to think and map out seven books into the future. Over the years, my pre-writing has become a little more extensive and I’m quicker to discover my plot, but I’m still pretty much a cut to the chase kind of writer who thinks writing more than a quick pitch ahead of time is a waste of time.
1) I have never once written a story web, map, or cluster. I don’t interview my characters or create journals for them in an attempt to get to know them better. I don’t interview them or make play-lists of their favorite music. What I do is listen to them speak—and boy do they talk a lot. I eavesdrop on endless conversations, watch intimate scenes—some of them will make it into the book, most won’t; but give me a forty minute walk with the dog and I’ll come home feeling close and connected to my characters. (I was relieved when a neighbor who liked to walk with me got a job so I could go back to listening to the teens in my head instead of her latest hair disaster, diet woes, or the gory details of the colon cleanser she’d tried!)
2) Story Notebooks: When I started my third story, the cast of characters was so large I did breakdown and get a notebook to jot down everyone’s name and age. I even went so far as to write down what color hair a few of them had, and because the storyline dictated it, I wrote down their birthdays and birthstones—but that was about as deep as I got.
3) Google: After giving a character the name Lacey Davenport and feeling an odd niggling that this was someone’s actual name, I now Google characters before I get too far into writing. It turns out Lacey was a creation of comic strip writer Gary Trudeau—far worse than if she’d been actual person! I know names can’t be copyrighted, but I didn’t want to step on any author’s toes, and now make sure my characters go by unique names. (I did name a Revealers’ character after one of Angelina Jolie’s brood—but it wasn’t Shiloh—any guesses?)
4) Pre-writing? Huh? Oh, did I mention I recently wrote my first pre-writing pitch? I went to hear some ghost hunters to talk, and then solidified an idea I’d been mulling over for a new story, Ghost-Walker. Ghost-Walker’s characters were starting to yammer endlessly in my head, but I’m supposed to be listening to the characters from Devoured due September 30th! To quiet the ghost crew for a bit, I wrote a pitch and sent it to my agent. This was the first time I’d come up with an entire plot—start to finish in such a short time. I did write a few pages of the first chapter, but I guess that is actual writing and not pre-writing.
5) I’m a Head Case. I guess most of my prewriting is done in my head. I listen, ask myself questions, and mull things over. I used to write a first chapter and then sit on it for a loooooong time to think things over, but now after the idea comes, it’s more shoot the starter gun and off I go.