Writers each call the steps of creation something different but like a story, the process has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. The four phase system I’ve adopted is from Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sterling & Stone (SPP), an amazing book for writers that I recommend.
What is pre-production?
The pre-production phase is when authors have the germination of ideas and begin developing them as potential ideas for stories. We consume ideas, just like you do, from life, from the media, from what we read and experience, but then we look for ways that we can craft a story and tell an engaging tale for our readers.
I am what writers would call a “plotter” so the pre-production phase (for me) includes sitting down once I have an idea for a story that I’d like to write about, and then I begin asking questions of the characters and the initial concept to get a clearer idea of where the heart of the story is, before I ever begin writing down a single word.
A class on screenwriting in college introduced me to Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat system of writing, where one creates story beats — paragraphs describing the major plot points in your novel (also adopted by SSP). If you’re a writer looking to learn how this works, you can pretty much google plenty of bloggers who have interviewed SPP. I recommend their course on Udemy as well.
The other aspect of pre-production that I’ll devote a lot of time towards — perhaps more than on the plot points — is world building and theme. If it’s a story set in a historical setting, then the world building would look quite different from a story set in a futuristic utopia. A lot of reading falls into this stage as I try to familiarize myself with books in the genre, as well as relevant non-fiction materials that may educate/inspire me on developing the setting. Theme is really a story’s heart, and knowing the message that you want to convey is important before you ever set pen to paper.
When I’ve got an idea of these elements, I’m ready to move on to Phase 2: Writing.