Today I started a new cross-stitching project (you know the one I mean Kess). Before I started I spent quite a lot of time organising the threads so that they were the right length, sorted by colour and threaded onto an index card and labelled. I'm sure I could do the sewing without spending this time but in the long run I would waste time trying to work out what colour to do next and cutting each piece to the required length each time.
And I suddenly realised that this is exactly the same as writing. Okay, not exactly the same but run with me here. Many times I've launched into a new writing project with no organisation, desperate to get the words down. Now, while it's good to be writing, I can tell you that out of the stories I've finished, these weren't among them. Because when I just launch in I have no idea who I'm writing about or what I'm writing about or anything at all other than some random scene in my head (and sometimes not even that). So after a while I peter out and lose momentum. Of course this could be the point where I start working out what I'm writing, but then I would probably have to go back over what I've already written and change it to fit - wasting time.
The stories that have worked for me are the ones that I've planned for. I don't necessarily mean step-by-step planning (though if you work that way, good for you) but just getting the basics down. Who am I writing about? What do they want? Are there any themes I particularly want to address? This last one, I am aware, can be a bit unnerving to ask, particularly if you haven't written much in the past. But I believe it should be asked first, just so long as you are happy to deviate from it - then at the end you can see what you wanted to write about and what you actually wrote about. This planning doesn't have to be intensive but it can make a great deal of difference when you get stuck in the middle somewhere.
Just like cross-stitch, writing needs a little prep work too if we want to save time and our sanity.