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Author Topic: The Writing Process  (Read 11522 times)
wakela
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« on: December 18, 2007, 06:26:04 PM »

I sometimes get bored with my stories as I'm writing them.  This makes it even harder to carve out the time and energy to sit down at the keyboard.  So with my latest I'm starting with the good parts.  I write whatever cool scene strikes my fancy without worrying about consistency of character or time line.  I have a general idea of how I want the story arc to go, so when I have enough cool scenes to achieve this I'll start putting them together, and then I'll worry about making things consistent.  I don't know if this is a good idea, but at least I'm more enthusiastic about working on my story. 

So what process do you guys use?  Start at the beginning and write to the end?  Write the ending first?  Outline?  Exhaustive character sketches?

Sidebar: the interviews on the I Should be Writing podcast have good descriptions of how the pros do it, IMHO.
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IT_Spook
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« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2007, 02:18:02 PM »

When I started, I wrote just the way your descibed. The main reason was that was how a story starts for me: I get a good idea for a scene.

I kept them practice up for the past twenty years. It's just the way I like to write. Over the last two months, I read about a dozen books on "How To Write" and they do go into detail about plot outlines, detailed character profiles and the like. I've tried the plot outline and character profile with my latest series about a young teenage girl who finds out she is the offspring of two supernatrural parents. I wrote two character outlines to start and a plot outline as the book told me how to do it.

In the end, I really didn't like doing either, but it did make me look at my writing from a different angle.

I discovered that I do write a plot outline; just not a traidtional one. I write one scene and then another and then another until I can see the "outline" of a story forming or determine the idea is not worth the time. As for character profiles, I like to let my characters develop and grow as I write the story. I found that by saying the main character had a fear of spiders in her profile (because  I thought it wouild be a good plot hook) kind of ruined the sruprise for me. Silly, I know, but I do surprise myself when I write.

Maybe some professionals can chime in here. I am a "Sunday Writer", as a book describes me. I write because I feel the need to and I love the result. Not to get paid or make a living. I think if I was doing this professionally (who knows, it may happen), I may take a more structured approach to the writing process.

I'd say write the way you like to and it makes you feel comfortable. I started writing using the process you described and still use it today.

Oh, and did I learn anything from those dozen books I read? Yep. I picked up quite a few new tricks (novel vs short story writing, markets, editting, presenting) and I figured out what was common to all the books. I'm in the process of making a little cheat sheet for myself.

It was also funny when my wife caught me taking out "How To Write Erotica" (I believe in reading about all genres). There was much explaining going on that day. Even the librarian had a hoot with me.
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« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2007, 03:14:20 PM »

I sometimes get bored with my stories as I'm writing them.  This makes it even harder to carve out the time and energy to sit down at the keyboard.  So with my latest I'm starting with the good parts.  I write whatever cool scene strikes my fancy without worrying about consistency of character or time line.  I have a general idea of how I want the story arc to go, so when I have enough cool scenes to achieve this I'll start putting them together, and then I'll worry about making things consistent.  I don't know if this is a good idea, but at least I'm more enthusiastic about working on my story. 

So what process do you guys use?  Start at the beginning and write to the end?  Write the ending first?  Outline?  Exhaustive character sketches?

Sidebar: the interviews on the I Should be Writing podcast have good descriptions of how the pros do it, IMHO.

I find myself getting bored sometimes.  It usually happens when I finally know how the story's going to end, or when I get to a lull in the action and want to get to a good scene coming up.  You just gotta fight your way through it.

When I write a short story, it usually starts with either dialogue or a good opening line in my mind and just goes, but I've spent a couple of days at that point thinking about the story, where I want it to end up, et al.  Short stories I usually finish in a few days to a week, so I can keep everything straight in my head, and I usually don't have a lot of characters.  Also, I don't start with the cool scene, even though I know there's something good coming up, because it helps me to better the cool scene if I know more about the characters and the situation.

As for a novel or even novella (or multi-part short-story, which some of my erotica tends to be), I'll again think for a couple of days, then start out where I want the story to begin, keeping everything in my head.  I'll keep a notepad handy to make character notations or other important bits, but for the most part I'll just go.  If I get to a point where I need to remember a character's eye color or height or something, I'll put it in square brackets and come back to it later.  That way, I don't have to break up the flow of the writing.  Once you're on a roll, you don't want to get off that roll.

After a few chapters, when things start to become more concrete on the page, I'll write a paragraph outline -- basically, a six-or-seven-line paragraph abstract for each chapter, or a three-paragraph short version of major story arcs.  Just to keep track of what's going on.  Then, as I write the story, I keep the outline handy and cross out stuff I write as I go.  (I've got the clean file on my computer so I can always bring it back and reprint as needed.)

The most important thing is to keep going, even if you pause from a story because you have a great idea and need to write another, even if you have something you want to write that no one but you will see.  Just keep writing.  Keep those neurons going.  And remember: revisions are not negative criticism.
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Jhite
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« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2007, 05:34:22 PM »

I have tried several different methods.  The one that normally ends up happening is as follows:
1. Scene pops in head
2. Write out scene
3. see if I can think of enough to make that scene into a story

ie to guys shooting at each other as they dodge around library book shelves, in an effort to determine who gets the last copy of the Adventures of Christopher Robin.

IMHO this is a failed method  I usually don't end up with much more than one good scene, and sometimes less than that.  See example above. (No, I would not really try write that even for fun.)  But it can be fun to write the scene.

The method that I'm experimenting with now (that does seem to be working well) is writing the story all the way through from each of the major view points.  for example, from the good guys point of view the bad guys and the folks in the middle.  Right now the project that I am working on I have the story line from 4 different points of view.   It sounds like a lot of work, but what I hope I will end up with is a bunch of stuff that I can pick and choose from to lace together into one really good story.  Also when I get bored with writing about one character or set of characters I can jump to one of the other POV's and write about them for a while.  This has been a lot of fun and, it keeps me writing. Most of the time.

 -J. Hite
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« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2007, 05:41:59 PM »

Quote
Oh, and did I learn anything from those dozen books I read? Yep. I picked up quite a few new tricks (novel vs short story writing, markets, editting, presenting) and I figured out what was common to all the books. I'm in the process of making a little cheat sheet for myself.

That little cheat sheet would be a wonderful thing to have. I might have to try to make one for myself.  I have read many of those books myself.  I skipped the Erotica for the reason you mentioned, but otherwise many other types.  I had never thought to try to write out all the things they had in common and used them as a kind of cheat sheet.

Thanks for the idea.
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« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2007, 09:39:41 PM »

I tend to write an outline, then write it through and then go back and put a bit more on the start.

I never mean to, but I find I cant write the beggining until I know the characters well enough and then by the end I come up with a much better way to introduce them.

the last piece I wrote, I found what I thought was my opening scene was infact my closing scene.

I also find it helps to have one or two other writers to swap work with, people who dont write the same type of things as you but you enjoy enough to read their stuff and have them read yours and give feedback.

I find this to be one of the best ways to get motived.
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2007, 09:36:20 AM »

I find a more organic approach works for me. 

There are lots of ideas floating around like pollen, and when one germinates in my head, I get the trowel, and try to find some quiet fertile place to plant the resulting seed.  Fertilization is easy enough when one's head is as full of crap as mine, but it's the quiet bit that becomes more difficult.  My mental gardening space tends to get overly cluttered with broken toys, twigs, and dog poo, and by the time I get a chance to tend the seeds, they have sprouted into sad little mutants with little appeal and a great deal of root rot.

The "How to write" books have done nothing for my poor self-discipline, and tend to raise weeds of self-doubt and rebellion against the corporate mindset.  After reading one, I sit down to write, and instead of telling the story I thought I wanted to tell, I end up writing a screed about how worrying about appeal to the mass market is strangling my creativity.  And nobody wants to read that... unless it is couched in metaphor... and maybe some human-like androids are involved... and a bounty hunter sent to track them down and kill them off... hmmm...

now i have to go... hard to type... 5 yr old sits on left arm... sighs
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2008, 04:58:52 PM »

I never mean to, but I find I cant write the beggining until I know the characters well enough

I'm with you there.  Usually, to do that, I think of some scenes in the story/book and play them out in my head so I can figure out what the characters are likely to do.  Of course, they change as they make it onto the paper, but it's a big help.

In "Shell Game", the longer thing I'm writing now that isn't SF/F/H, I wrote the first "chapter" cold, two hours, start to finish.  Then I started playing out scenes in my head once I had a rough mental sketch of what they looked like (I purposefully kept their appearances out of the first chapter as much as possible so I could focus on getting the story told).  Now -- after six chapters -- I know enough about them that I don't really HAVE to play the scenes in my head, but right now, I'm in a "workshop" mode.  That is, I know what the characters are like, and I know where the story is going to go (I have an outline), but I don't know what the scenes are going to be like so I've sent my characters to a mental acting workshop where they play out bits of scenes until I find one I like.

So far, I've gotten something from a later chapter -- a car ride -- and an even later chapter than that -- when Sarah contacts Michael's ex-wife because she needs her help -- but nothing for Chapter Seven yet.
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« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2008, 10:28:02 AM »

I also get bored really easily, and I think you've got a good idea there. I tend to write in a linear fashion (though lately I've been writing some disconnected scenes from one family's life, which is fun). I'll write some notes on the world and its cultures and I'll conduct character interviews, but I don't spend a whole lot of time on character profiles. It's hard to put down in words how I know a character feels like. And of course I end up learning more about them as time goes on.

As for outlining, I'll jot down ideas as to the future plot, sometimes in bulletpoints, but plot is not my strongest suit. It's kind of just getting from point A to B for me. I need to work on that.

I've been wanting to write a musical, and I have some characters and a few plot points in mind. That's going to be pretty much entirely my head before it gets on the page.
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Troo
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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2008, 06:58:41 AM »

It depends for me on the length of the item I'm writing.

If it's a short story (say, less than 8,000 words) I'll just leap into it organically. Sometimes this results in a finished story, sometimes it doesn't. Either way, it's fun.

If it's a novella-length, I'll do rudimentary character sketches, a few lines on where I'd like the story to go, and a bit of "the story so far" before I start. All this work comes to no more than two pages, usually only one.

If it's novel-length, I go the whole hog: Character backgrounds; reams upon reams of research for setting, time period, and so on; Chapter outlines; Sometimes even character sketches or concept art for locations / things.
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shanerm09
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« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2010, 09:59:36 PM »

Very well written. I have been trying to find the best way to put things together & write more creatively as well. I wish I had read this much earlier but nevertheless, it is a very well written article. Thanks for this because it will help me relearn things that are definitely required.
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AliceNred
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« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2010, 10:28:22 PM »

I sometimes get bored with my stories as I'm writing them.  This makes it even harder to carve out the time and energy to sit down at the keyboard.  So with my latest I'm starting with the good parts.  I write whatever cool scene strikes my fancy without worrying about consistency of character or time line.  I have a general idea of how I want the story arc to go, so when I have enough cool scenes to achieve this I'll start putting them together, and then I'll worry about making things consistent.  I don't know if this is a good idea, but at least I'm more enthusiastic about working on my story. 

I have a fairly short attention span as well. This is why I write short stories.

Forgiving me for saying so, as I don't know you or your writing, but if they aren't the fun, than perhaps you should skip it.

That stated, I once heard Ray Bradbury speak about writing, and he said  that it doesn't matter where you start to tell a story  when you are writing, that you can always go back and fill in the stuff in between.



So what process do you guys use?  Start at the beginning and write to the end?  Write the ending first?  Outline?  Exhaustive character sketches?

I almost always know my endings. But I start at the beginning. This can very challenging, finding my way into a story.

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« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2010, 05:00:39 AM »

I tend to start from the beginning and slog through, but I always outline to start with, just so I know where I'm going. I find that I write in new themes and bits of imagery as a write that I usually come back to later on in the piece. If I didn't start from the beginning I'd find the progression and integration of those themes really haphazard. I'd probably end up going back and editing my work a lot more to work themes that I'd introduced earlier into other parts of the prose, which would feel really strange from my point of view.
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LaShawn
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« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2010, 12:28:55 PM »

For me, if I find myself growing bored with a scene, that make me think, "Well, if I'm bored, that will bore the reader too." That gives me a heads-up to take a look at the scene and see how to spice it up, or if it needs to be scrapped altogether. Outlines can be your friends, too.
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SpareInch
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« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2015, 10:07:16 AM »

I've never been forum mining on these boards before. There's some good stuff in here. Smiley

Anyway... The topic in hand...

I usually start with an idea, which I flesh out into an outline. Sometimes that's more of a full blown storyboard type of thing, with every scene mapped out, but more often it's a really loose outline with lots of wiggle room. Then I write the story right through. Then I go through again, writing new bits where I think I need them, and chopping bits out where they don't work. The chopping out part is especially important as I often put the same info into the story in several different places and decide which works best later on.

If I need to look stuff up online, I paste all the URLs into a webography, too. That way, I can double check my research later on if I need to.

And when I say my outlines can be loose, I outlined a 2K wordsteam punk story once, which is still in development after the aforementioned internet research turned up some cool stuff that I just couldn't pass up, so my 2K word steam punk is currently an 85K word historical novel with a dash of magic realism. Although it is now getting smaller again thanks to some helpful critique.
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MaryDShearer
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« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2015, 05:47:44 AM »

I think writers are born writers, they cannot be taught writing. yp there are so many people who start writing just to make money but still writing is an art and it comes from nature as God gifted talent.
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strongbow1
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« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2015, 03:38:53 PM »

Hello all
Newbie here.
Does anyone find that most of their ideas come while driving?
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SpareInch
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« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2015, 07:30:04 AM »

Hello all
Newbie here.
Does anyone find that most of their ideas come while driving?

Not me, but then, I don't drive. They do have a habit of turning up when you have no handy means of making a note of them though. Roll Eyes
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Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2015, 03:54:08 PM »

Hello all
Newbie here.
Does anyone find that most of their ideas come while driving?

Not me, but then, I don't drive. They do have a habit of turning up when you have no handy means of making a note of them though. Roll Eyes

Yeah, most ideas come when you're supposed to be thinking about something else.  I tend usually remember them until I get home, write a quick note on the smart phone, walk inside and then realize that I forgot to shop for groceries, pick up food or whatever else I was supposed to be doing.
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Carinthia
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« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2015, 08:46:50 PM »

Hello all
Newbie here.
Does anyone find that most of their ideas come while driving?

Driving around almost always breaks through writer's block for me. Even if I'm singing along with the radio at the top of my voice, I usually find that by the time I get home, whatever plot point I was stuck on has somehow magically resolved itself.
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