It may be a while before I start the actual writing of my second book, but it’s coming – I can promise you that. The entire story exists from start to finish in my head, and prep work is under way.

I can’t just sit down and start a novel. Instead I meander down a twisty road of catharsis before landing at the doorstep of chapter one, and I do that by performing a few practical exercises (and one or two quirky ones as well):

Step one: Purge! I just donated four large garbage bags of clothes to Goodwill. Why my closet still looks stuffed to capacity is anyone’s guess, but the task is complete, and I’ll now move on to digging through drawers. The act of discarding clears a path to creativity.

Step two: Scrapbooking. I make scrapbook pages of images that I see in my mind’s eye. That means tearing out magazine pics of streets, houses, trees, cars, and anything else that may define my character’s environment. It gives me clarity.

Step three: I create a spreadsheet of characteristics for each person in the story. Where they grew up, what their belief systems are, where they went to school (if they went to school), even their favorite colors. Regardless of whether or not the material makes it into the book, it creates solid histories for my key players. I can keep them consistent if I know their backgrounds.

Step four: The cast. You’re damned right I do. I choose the actors who’d I’d like to see play my characters, and I stick their pictures in the back of my scrapbook for easy reference. A girl can dream. This exercise is just plain fun. And, by the way, Anne Hathaway has been my choice all along to play Candace Bradford in “CONTROL SWITCH – The Movie.”

Step five: Build a soundtrack. I compile a playlist on my iPad that relates to the story, and I listen to it when I’m not writing. When I’m writing I need silence. When I’m not, the music keeps me in touch with the process and the characters.

I’ve garnered my list of preparation tips from various writers, mentors, and magazine articles along the way, but every writer has their own unique style when getting ready to dive into a new manuscript. It may seem time consuming to do so much work ahead of time, but you can’t jump into the deep end if you don’t know how to swim. Be open to suggestions and find what works best for you.

Oh, and the most important thing I do before beginning? I come up with the title.

Stay tuned for updates on “Seasoned With Pepper.”