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All Things Writing > How do you Write?

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message 1: by Michael (last edited Aug 23, 2013 07:06AM) (new)

Michael Pearce (michaeltinkerpearce) | 91 comments Do you make a firm outline and stick to it? Do you 'map' your characters, writing profiles of each one? Or do you 'fly by the seat of your pants? Somewhere in between, perhaps? What works for you?

Linda and I (my wife and co-author) establish an understanding of the world that we are setting the story in, then start with a story arc and a concept of the central characters and take off from there. No real outline, we just let things unfold.

This means that we sometimes end up in a very different place than we thought that we would. Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman's story arc would have had him becoming a lawman in a mining 'boom-town.' But the events in the story, the logic of the world and the character took us some place very different indeed! I like to think it's a better place.

message 2: by Roy (new)

Roy Mauritsen | 2 comments I do character arcs and plot out a very fluid chapter outline... but stuff tends to change and flesh out a bit as I write. And then my publisher throws in their wrinkles which causes some rewrites that I'm still recovering from!

message 3: by Michael (new)

Michael Pearce (michaeltinkerpearce) | 91 comments Our publisher extensively rewrote our first Foreworld novella. We came back with five pages (double-sided) of 'cultural errors' in the rewrite that needed to be fixed. For the next Novella they came back with a handful of 'suggestions.' Much better.

message 4: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Wood | 5 comments I outline obsessively. Just sent off a book proposal to my agent today, and at 3000 words, that was the short version. I like to have a few sentences at least for each plot line for every scene. That way I know who's there, what they're doing, and what they're hoping to achieve by it.

That said, I don't do much character work up front. That's OK while I'm working on a series, but if that changes I'm really going to have to work on that.

message 5: by Ken (last edited Aug 23, 2013 10:30AM) (new)

Ken Mooney (kenmooney) I'm the same, Jonathan: usually a plot line for every scene and how it should go. Build/string those together for the overall plot, and there it goes.

But when writing, I'll find that scenes just don't work, or the necessary conversation doesn't go as it should: some of my favourite scenes are actually ones that I've had to change (usually swapping characters, or turning the scene on its head.) It has a knock-on effect on the rest of the book, but it actually creates this magic on the page that I love.

message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Pearce (michaeltinkerpearce) | 91 comments I always know when things are going REALLY well, because I have to keep writing to see what happens next...

message 7: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
You know how much i'm enjoying this thread. I feel like I'm listening in on a bunch of pros over their coffee break :3

message 8: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Wood | 5 comments My full process is a bit weird. I start with images. I keep a tumblr of "cool things I find" and just go through that pulling images that fit the general vibe of the story I have in mind. Then I use those to generate little 200-300 word snippets of scenes. Just something to capture an idea that I can blow out, or to get the sense for how a character might feel about something, etc. I don't use all of them, but generally by the time I have 20 or so then I have a good idea of the story I want to tell. It's very vague at that point though. So then I use 7-point plot to structure the main plot and any subplots (of which there are usually 4-6).

As an aide, if you don't know 7-point plot then I highly recommend this series of videos of Dan Wells talking about it. It's probably not for everyone, but it revolutionized plotting for me. Link:

Once I've got that done then I flesh it out into a full outline, inserting try/fail cycles, etc. And then I write, the first draft. And several months later I start to edit.

message 9: by Heidi (new)

Heidi Barnes | 86 comments I can't do outlines. They just stop me. It's usually an idea, a thought, maybe a dream. I get it down on paper then roll it around in my head a bit. Then I just start to write. Sometimes I just start writing and see where it goes. My last one was from a prompt on a free write I do. I saw the prompt and knew I was in trouble. lol

I do a lot of re reading as I go. When I get to 200 I reread to make sure the flow works. When I get the first draft done I let it sit. Think about it, work on something else maybe. (there is always something else brewing. LOL)

Then I re read yet again and tweak, change, throw out. In one that I'm working on something was missing. 500 pages and something was missing. When I figured out what it was I went back in to weave it in. Hard to do and not lose things. So far so good and now it's twice as long with new characters and a different world! :S
Still not ready but it's getting there.

message 10: by Kay (new)

Kay (aceraven) | 41 comments I have to admit that I am a bit of a "pantser" when it comes to writing. I've been trying to change my habit by getting more planning done upfront, but it's not working out too well. I keep getting bogged down in making sure that I have all of my details straight. I keep having to remind myself that having all the details isn't important before I even begin. I tend to get swept up into writing zones where I become pretty caught up in the story and am able to get a bare bones idea out, then I flesh out in subsequent drafts.

message 11: by Susan (new)

Susan (authorsusanreid) | 28 comments I am most definitely a fly by the seat writer, although I do make many, many notes(I really have to, given how my current books are written). I find that a glass of wine or a mixed drink and cranking up the music I would choose if my book were a movie in the background gets the creative flow going and once I go, I do not stop until I become easily distracted...that's when I know the "zone" has begun to!

message 12: by Susan (new)

Susan (authorsusanreid) | 28 comments Michael wrote: "I always know when things are going REALLY well, because I have to keep writing to see what happens next..."

You sound like me! It's an awesome high when it just keeps flowing without having to think too hard on it...I love those bursts! :)

message 13: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Castro (nicolecastro) | 116 comments I'm a pantser. I have an idea of the story, but I cannot outline. I fly by the seat of my pants!

message 14: by Carry (new)

Carry | 38 comments I'm writing my first serious (publishing ambitious) story together with a friend. It actually started out as a round-robin fan fiction and we didn't tell each other anything and just wrote. The plot turned to be quite nice and we decided to make a real story out of it (only character names and some obvious characteristics have to be replaced).
The story came to life by discovering, and so did the characters. I work best this way, though for the rewrite we are going to plan most to make to easier to write together.

Normally I don't plan much character because I like to get to know them while writing, but I'm dealing with a very complex character that keeps eluding me and I'm trying to get to know him by writing scenes out of daily life and things that happened before the story and it really helps, though I want to leave room for spontaneous discoveries!

message 15: by Kay (new)

Kay (aceraven) | 41 comments @Carry - I write backstories for characters that elude me too. I kind of feel bad because I need to write what was essentially the worst day of his life so I can figure out some things about his motivation. Poor guy.

message 16: by Rick (last edited Aug 25, 2013 11:29AM) (new)

Rick Soper (RickSoper) | 169 comments I outline. I need to organize the thoughts in my head into a coherent sequence of events. I tried doing the Stephen King thing and just writing with no plan and when i got to the end things were way too messy. Then I tried to re-write, still without an outline, and things were still messy. I had one re-write where chapter one ended up being over 80,000 words, and that was the point I decided I was going about things all wrong. So I sat down and put together a single outline that ended up bing the blueprint for my Rock Series of books. There were 276 chapters listed out in that outline, which is why I broke it into three books, and even then I re-did the outlines for each single book. I'm much more satisfied with the results after doing the outline because the end product makes much more sense to me. You see I come from a TV background where you have to think about transitions, which means you need start points like, "Hi I'm Rick and this is my show", middle parts like "Tell me about your book", and an ending like, "This has been my show, I'm Rick and I'll see you next time". With an outline I was better able to engineer the transitions into scenes, the action within the scene, and then the transition out of the scene. My editor says I'm a hooker, which doesn't mean I'm a prostitute, it means I throw hooks into the ends of most of my chapters that leave the reader wanting to know what happens next, but then I switch gears and go a different direction, and that leaves them wanting to get back to the last hook as well as wanting to find out what happens with the next hook. That would be very hard to accomplish if you were "just writing" without an outline. So I'm a firm believer in that an outline will make your story much better. Now that being said, I do add and delete scenes within the outline as I go through writing the book because as I'm writing I find details and characters and situations that need to be developed further, so while I like the framework of the outline, I believe it should be a fluid thing that can change as you go along, and not a rigid instrument that can't be changed once it's done.

message 17: by Susan (new)

Susan (authorsusanreid) | 28 comments Ryan wrote: "I do roughly zero planning before I begin. I have an idea, a concept or a character and just run with it. I like to let the story and characters develop entirely of their own free will as events pr..."

Hi Ryan! I can completely relate to your style as well. My mind and imagination operates in the same ways! I thought maybe that approach was just my own quirk but it seems to work for many others too!

message 18: by James (new)

James Caterino (jimcaterino) | 37 comments Hi everyone. Thank you for sharing. It is always interesting, insightful, and often quite helpful to hear about the methodology of other writers.

I think sometimes the nature of what you write dictates the best approach. But that being said, having a screenwriting background, I am big on structure and outlines. It always begins with the characters who live in my mind long before any writing is done. Then I will begin filling composition notebooks with character backstories and flesh out a few key scenes and dialogue sequences. Then I use sketchpads and write out (and draw badly) setting details. Next is a yellow legal pad phase of outlines, structure, and rendering of scenes. Finally a first draft, but work on the legal pads continues.

It can be a long process. The story has to breathe and live and be fully realized in my mind before I sit down to the actual nuts and bolts of typing in Word.

message 19: by J (new)

J | 301 comments Mod
I'm fond of legal pads, too. I use yellow ones for school, and blue ones for fiction. :3

I'm like you, I need to have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen before I write. Sometimes the day before I plan to do a scene, I plan it out with details, so I know what I'm doing.

message 20: by Sarah (new)

Sarah LaFleur (lafleurdeplume) | 37 comments I have to know how to begin and how to end... The rest is loose and I allow tangents as I go. I write almost exclusively linearly, although I have been known to jump ahead in the story and post a spoiler alert for my early readers. I think the organic quality of writing for me makes it exciting...

Writing Who Is Evelyn Dae? has been a particular challenge because the story is presented out of order (I wanted an open format for the blog so I wouldn't get 'stuck'). I still tend to write in the order the work is presented and have a separate document for future ideas.

message 21: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
I jump around in chapters and leave it to editing to fit the continuity together. Why it takes me so long I think lol :x

message 22: by Deb (last edited Aug 30, 2013 05:14AM) (new)

Deb (soulhaven) | 103 comments Bisky wrote: "I jump around in chapters and leave it to editing to fit the continuity together. Why it takes me so long I think lol :x"

I've started doing this since I moved to Scrivener - because you can so much easier!
I think it pays to leave a continuity check till the end, anyway. Edits can mess with things. You want to make sure you're looking over things with a view to closing gaps and smoothing changes on that last pass.

message 23: by Carl (new)

Carl Outlines for books and stories work well. With books, sections and chapters are outlined. Lists of what characters in the chapter/story want along with how plot/character will be furthered are made. I'm not married to these; thus, changes can occur. The magic lies in how I go from step to step. Challenge is to try and surprise myself.

message 24: by Carl (new)

Carl I used to teach composition. My message to students about the writing process has been to find what works and do that. Of course newbies need to try a lot of, for example, invention techniques to find the right one or ones.

message 25: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Castro (nicolecastro) | 116 comments Bisky wrote: "I jump around in chapters and leave it to editing to fit the continuity together. Why it takes me so long I think lol :x"

How very interesting.

message 26: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
Now I can't figure out how I managed to do it before Scrivener. What a fabulous software lol

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