by Carolyne Aarsen
My husband had to replace a window in my office awhile back. He drove to his brother’s place, a twenty minute drive one way, borrowed a set of scaffolds, came back and set them up to install the window. Then he got his tools and brought them to the scaffold. All tallied, this took him all morning. My husband is usually very efficient so I was surprised at all the prep work he did for one small window. He could have saved himself a lot of time by simply going down to our garage and getting out his ladder and using that. According to my estimation, he could have had the old window out by the time he had come back from his brother’s place with the scaffolds.
However, as he started working I saw the wisdom in all the preparation he did. He had the scaffold set up under the width of the window. He had plenty of room on the scaffold for the variety of tools he needed. The time he spent taking out the window and replacing it was less than it took to put up the scaffold. But it only went quickly because he had put up the scaffold. He had a solid foundation to work from and he had all his tools handy. As I watched him work I realized that though he seemed to have wasted a lot of time that wasn’t, technically, productive, in the long run it was.
This reminded me of the work I do before I write a book. I spend a lot of time figuring out my characters fears, wounds, motivations, backstory, personality, likes and dislikes. I brainstorm potential scenes and tasks that will be part of my character’s story and how it will affect their character arc. I check out personality sites and struggle with what would be challenges for my characters. I use charts and re-read articles and scribble and discard.
If you were to watch me with my swatches of paper, forms I fill out, web-sites I visit, scribbling and planning for weeks you might think, “Just write the story already.” And I could, but I also know . . . it would take me longer. I’m not a seat of the pants writer. I’m too easily – oh look, a bird – distracted. I would start out writing a romance about Fred and Alice and end up with a sci-fi mystery set in a dystopian future. So I like to plot and plan and do a lot of prep work. Because when I do, I’m more efficient when it comes time for me to write the book.
Some of you might cringe thinking about all this pre-work. I know each of us writers have to find our own way through our stories. But I need to prepare as much for writing my book as my husband did to put that window in. Because once I’m ready, once I feel I have my characters and story under control, I feel much freer to write. And I’m a lot happier with my book when I’m done.
What about you? How much pre-work do you do? Do you think it makes you more efficient? Or do you believe it takes the fun out of the story?
After moving to the country to follow the love of her life, Carolyne Aarsen, a transplanted city girl, quickly adjusted, raising 4 children and numerous foster children, gardens and cattle. In all of this, she also followed her writing dream. She is blessed to write for Love Inspired and is inspired by her husband, family, faith and community.