When I sit down and put words on paper or type into my computer, that aspect of creating a text (like a novel or software manual) is called "writing": I store the content of my text in letters.

But when I plan what I want to write, develop my "story", construct the plot, or research the facts, I'm not yet actually writing my novel or news article.

What is the superordinate term for that non-writing aspect of a writer's work?

The best term I found is "narrative", but that denotes what you create, not the process of creating it. I need a term not for the object that you work on, but for the work you do.

  • 3
    Preparation. Or you mean Meta-Writing, but that's more about writing itself and not about the plot. Mar 18, 2014 at 10:48

3 Answers 3


I use lots of words for different parts of the work:

  • planning
  • plotting
  • researching
  • brainstorming
  • practicing
  • warming up
  • sketching
  • outlining
  • procrastinating ;-)

I don't know of a single word that covers all of that.

  • +5, especially for "outlining". I would use that one to summarize all of them, including procrastinating. Mar 19, 2014 at 14:21
  • D'oh! I inadvertently omitted "daydreaming" from my list. I don't know where my mind was. Mar 19, 2014 at 17:21

I'd call that development. It covers everything in Dale's excellent list and dmm's couch time.


I beg to differ with you. For lack of a better all-inclusive word, I call all of that "writing." The actual setting-down of the words is just one part of writing. And even once that is done, you still have to edit the words, which is more writing.

Really, we should have a proper word for the whole process. Maybe, "writering." That way, when I'm laying on the couch composing a scene in my imagination, my wife could say to my kids, "Leave Daddy alone. He's writering." Sounds so much better than "napping."

  • I agree with you that we usually call all of what we do, from the first idea to research to character development to writing the text "writing". The problem is that I need a term or short phrase to describe the parts that are not writing in the more narrow sense of the word. Imagine you want to teach a course on creative writing. You can and should assume that your students have learned to write, in the narrow sense, in elementary school, and that you don't need to teach them to write in this sense. [contd.]
    – user5645
    Mar 18, 2014 at 17:25
  • [contd.] You need to teach them everything apart from writing. So what is it you teach them? Certainly not writing in your sense of the word, because that would include the typing and orthography etc.
    – user5645
    Mar 18, 2014 at 17:25
  • I think you should try to teach a course called "Creative Writering." ;-)
    – dmm
    Mar 18, 2014 at 20:36

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