An excellent question, and one that I will, unfortunately, have a really awful answer to. I don't do much pre-writing at all. Before I start a story, there are only two things I need to know: all the main characters, the beginning, and the end. Yup. That's it. I don't even need a plot. Don't take that the wrong way. You do need a plot for any kind of story, but I don't usually know it before I start. It takes me a while to figure it out while writing, and then, as you might imagine, I have to edit out all the beginning drivel that is clearly plotless. I know no other way to do this.
Sometimes, (as for Steam) I do a character chart, especially if there's a large cast of characters. There isn't for ATRS. And every character's motivations are pretty straightforward. No secrets here.
You see, the problem with me is if I don't grab an idea and immediately run with it on paper, I lose it. Or I lose the motivation to get going. So pre-writing bogs me down instead of helping the process. I suppose everyone's different in that way. The only real pre-anything I do is pre-thinking. I like to think about the story for a long time (ATRS took two years), but I won't write anything down.
Occasionally, research is necessary. Research is a good way to get the ideas swimming along in my head, but most of my stories don't require a ton of research. And I won't write about something that requires research in an area I don't like. Like sci-fi? That will never happen. Ever.
For other people who have better answers:
Monday: Flames and Shadows
Tuesday: Girl With A Notebook
Wednesday: it's me...
Thursday: Somewhere Nowhere In My Kingdom
Friday: Sometimes Helpful Nonsense
So, you can see on my ATRS block, I have added a total progress bar, because I obviously need more reasons to obsess over word count. But it looked cool, and decisions in my life are mainly made based on whether they will seem cool or not.
Rick Riordan posted pictures of his family vacationing in Greece, and I almost melted into a gigantic green puddle of jealous goo. If I believed in reincarnation (which I don't, being a Jesus and Bible-lover), I would swear that I once lived in Ancient Greece. I have a love affair with it, as you might glean from my blog. I'm thinking of doing the six-week study abroad program in Athens next summer (yeah, I think I peed a little just typing that) if I can fit it in with my LSAT class.
New book idea: something Peter Pan related. I'll let you know about that.