Novel Pre-Writing Exercises

prewriting strategiesIf you’re reading this, that means you’ve decided to write a novel or some other kind of book. While not an easy task, self-publishing a book will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. If you’ve never done it before, you may not know where to begin. So much more than just writing goes into the novel-writing process. In order to write and self-publish a novel (or any book for that matter), you’ll need to do an incredible amount of planning, prewriting, writing, revising, and editing. In past blogs, we’ve talked about writing, revising, and editing, including mistakes to avoid in each of these steps. Today let’s discuss prewriting strategies. 

How do you know when to start writing? What are the best strategies for outlining your novel? How can you create well-rounded characters? What research needs to be done before you can write? We’ll answer these questions and more. If you read this blog and have more questions, leave them in the comments section below. We’ll always do our best to answer any queries you may have.

What is Prewriting?

“Prewriting” itself can be a pretty broad term, as it encompasses a lot of strategies and activities for all forms of writing, not just books. To put it as simply as possible: prewriting is the process that writers go through before they actually begin writing, whether a short story, poem, novella, memoir, and so on. The prewriting strategies you choose depend on your writing project, goals, habits, and tendencies.

It’s unlikely that, after deciding to write a book, you’ll sit down and start writing chapter one right away. Stories do not happen in a vacuum. Rather, writing is intensely time-consuming and intellectual. In order to write strong and smart stories, essays, and poems, the writer must be prepared and—as if the creative mind were a muscle—”warmed up.” Prewriting strategies, therefore, warm up your creativity and build the foundation your book will rest upon.

Prewriting Strategies

As mentioned above, the prewriting strategies you choose depend on your writing project. This process looks different writer to writer and genre to genre. Let’s take a look at the various methods and activities writers can use to support their book, novel, or collection.


Perfect for novels, memoirs, poetry, or any kind of writing project. This get-it-all-out-there approach encourages a sort of mindlessness. Freewriting is about filling the page, no matter how disjointed, random, or haphazard the end result may be. In the case of freewriting, the focus should be quantity over quality. Your brain gets the chance to warm up, and there just may be an idea or two within the deluge.


Perfect for any writing project, brainstorming allows the writer to list out any and all ideas for the book, such as character names, chapter titles, plot points, etc. This technique provides you with a hefty inventory of ideas to draw on.

Character sketches

Choose this prewriting activity for a novel or a book that has a lot of characters, whether real or imagined. A character sketch should be a thorough, detailed overview of a character: their physical attributes, their personality traits, their past, their quirks, their insecurities, and so on. Character sketches allow the writer to create fully-formed, realistic characters, with intricate backgrounds, wants, needs, and humanity.


This category is broad and can be used for any kind of writing project. Research includes any form of investigating, learning, or discovery you do prior to writing. For novels, this may be researching the place you’ve chosen as your setting or the time period you’re writing in; for memoirs, this includes looking at family photo albums, talking about your family history with relatives, and looking into birth records, death records, etc. Most writing projects will warrant research. You should be a master of whatever you’re writing about, whether it’s your own family or a particular decade in history.

Outline or Timeline

Outlining your story provides a sort of road map you can reference throughout the writing process. Making this as detailed as possible will help your future writing self. This process will look different depending on your writing project, but the idea and purpose behind it remains the same.

Interview Questions

Ask yourself the following: What is this book about? Why is it important? How do you want to get your ideas across? Who do you envision reading this book?

Why is Prewriting Important?

Writing a book is not a simple task. Authors dedicate countless hours to their books, and prewriting remains a crucial aspect across all genres and book types. Depending on the type of prewriting strategies you choose, you’ll supply yourself with a roadmap for writing, content ideas to draw on, research to solidify your claims, and much more.

Being a self-publisher, prewriting is definitely an important for you. It makes your writing stronger and your book better. It’s too easy to feel like you’re going it alone during this process, which is why DiggyPOD aims to assist the aspiring and veteran self-publisher alike. Once you’ve gone through one or all of these prewriting strategies, you’ll find yourself in an even better place to write your book. And when that’s done, we’ll be ready to print it for you.

Do you do other prewriting activities before you write? Let us know what you’ve found works best for you in the comments.