Most of my students think prewriting is a dirty word, or a punishment. So did I. That is, until I learned to call it strategizing. Prewriting is, forgive the reference, elementary. Writers don't Prewrite... prewriting is what you do when you have an essay and don't know what to write about. Prewriting is organizing your ideas before you begin a two-page paper for the teacher...
So, let's no more to do with Prewriting. Ugh. Let's talk Strategizing! Strategy is a plan of action. Strategy is what generals do for war. Strategy is what nerds do when they play chess. Strategy, in writing, is profiling the characters, finding their backgrounds and motivations and internal conflicts; laying out the plot lines, tracking with which characters they involve and how they intermingle; choosing the settings that will best complement the mood you're trying to create.
I am about to dig back into Hero Games (I just finished Slave Princess), and I'm going to start with a day or so of strategizing before I begin. You might ask why, since I already have some written. Sometimes, a quarter of the way into the work is the best time to strategize. Some writers need to get some of the idea on paper before trying to figure out where it's going to go. Knowing beforehand spoils it for them.
That's fine. That isn't my problem. A good amount of my planning was lost when I changed computers. I did quite a bit of prep- ahem, strategizing about a year ago using the wonderful FreeMind program, which I'll be using again. However, I only had the file stored on my hard drive, so when that was gone, so was the information.
I digress. Strategizing is your plan of action. Figuring out what you are going to do, and where you are going to go isn't punishment, it's smart. Yes, I suppose you can wake up on a Saturday morning, yank your kid out of bed and say "Let's go to Mexico! Grab your tennis shoes." However, a carefully planned trip yields far better results. Booking flights, or outlining road maps, packing the things you'll need. Repacking, with the things you forgot to list, making reservations for good restaurants, finding lodging. These strategies can turn a random trip to a little town across the border to a nice vacation, that hits the highlights and makes memories.
That's what you want your novel to be, too. A vacation from the real world that leaves behind memories of places you've never been, people you've never met, and a story to tell your friends. Strategizing is how you get there.
If you want details on what I am strategizing in Hero Games, go read that old post I linked above. I've got war paint to put on and a story to plan!