Sunday, May 17, 2009

Prep Work

My honeysuckle bush in full bloom.

Helen Ginger of Straight from Hel mentioned my glorious roses in the comments of the previous post and Swubird of Swubird's Nest talked about his process in the comments of my post "Learning Curves" inspired this post on prep work.

We don't always think about the preparation that comes before a project, although it is one of the most critical steps. Without all the prep work that my wonderful s.o. Bruce does, I wouldn't have the glorious results you see above. But so many times creative people are inspired and rush into a project without taking the time to prepare. And get caught up as a result, stopped, or lose their way in the labyrinth. How many projects are abandoned because of lack of prep work?

To add to this, everybody's prep is unique. I, for example, must do an outline of a new novel, BUT only a loose outline. I know other novelists who almost write the book before they write the book and others who only have the story arc and main characters in mind. Some artists have sketches galore, while others have the picture only in their minds. But one certain way to know if you're not doing enough preparation is if you get lost in your work--and no I don't mean the right-brained kind of lost.

And yes, you can do too much preparation before the actual work. So much that you lose the energy of the project. But my experience with creative people is that overall we tend towards too little instead of too much.

What do you do when facing a new project? What do you consider an absolute necessity for preparing? What have you found on earlier projects that you wished you'd prepared for?


Helen Ginger said...

With each book, I seem to learn and get better at prep. I'm working on a series for TSTC Publishing. This is my third book with them, so I know what I need to do. Luckily, I don't have to outline since each one has the same structure.

When I write fiction, I do create a loose outline and spend time envisioning the characters.

Straight From Hel

Conda Douglas said...

That seems quite well balanced, Helen. Some but not too much--always a difficulty with creative folks with everything. Read my friend Kathy's newest posting on her blog WELL PLACED WORDS for another balancing act!

The Muse said...

Hi Conda!

Most of my prep work comes in the form of research. I read, read, read everything I can about my subject then I draw a rough outline. I don't know why I do the outline, I always sway away from it.

Once the school year starts up again, I want to start something new. I've been thinking about it a lot and it's time to just do it.

Have a wonderful day!

Swubird said...


Now there is a big difference between a big project and a little project. For a short article, like a blog post, I write down several lines of notes in my handy little notebook. Then I decide on the order of things--I usually try to stick with no more than two main points. I check my reference material for dates, cultural attributes, etc., and then I write.

For big projects, such as a full length manuscript, I prepare a lengthly outline. That's a royal pain, because I hate outlining. But experience has taught me a valuable lesson--no outline, no project. Otherwise I pile one idea on top of another until I become buried with no completed story, and no way out.

That's my two cents.

Happy trails.

Conda Douglas said...

Muse, good luck with your new project!

Conda Douglas said...

Swu, excellent point about the LENGTH of the project. Hard to get too lost in a five pager--although I've managed to do it...

Kathy McIntosh said...

I've tried detailed outlines and loose outlines. Whatever, I tend to drift away.
I think a loose outline helps me structure the plot, but I'm thinking next time I'll try to storyboard it, with scenes and acts, like a film.