I do all this because I need the characters and their relationships and emotional states and backstory to feel like they're on a firm foundation (and mistake-proof) before I send them pantsing through the plot. This can mean different kinds of sketches for different books, and for my new WIP I need a serious timeline to keep me from just sitting here like a lump, tied in knots, head spinning. This could easily end up being twice as long as the one already on the wall, so here's what I came up with:
For this book, more than for any I've yet done, I also need a family tree. Everybody is everybody's else's cousin in this town, and certain villains may or may not be related to certain heroes, so I need to keep them straight:
And then we also need, yes, a PLOT chart. This is a 11x17 sheet divided into four quadrants (one each for the beginning and end, and two for the middle) where every scene gets recorded -- a few key ones before they're written, but my inner 7th-grader writes *almost* all of them first and puts them in the outline after. The outline, then, happens concurrently with the first draft.
Do you use tools like this? What kind? Do tell.