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How Do You Write?

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message 1: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
I wrote a short piece for my blog on How I Write. I thought it might be a good idea to post it here with the question - How Do you Write?

I guess we all have our own ways and means.......


message 2: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Hi

Here's my short piece:


How I Write

Well, first I think that's a very personal thing and that every author will have their own take on this. There's no right or wrong way. As W. Somerset Maugham said: 'There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no-one knows what they are.'

Basically, I prefer the Stephen King approach as set out in his 'On Writing'. You know, the book he wrote after he was hit by a truck when he was out walking to clear his mind after a writing session. The truck that nearly killed him. You get the idea that he felt he had to put it all in that book, just in case.

I take his approach to be something along the lines of: If you're not surprising yourself when you're writing your book, how can you hope to surprise your readers when they're reading it? So, I try to be excited at what's coming out as I write and let the novel plan itself. With this approach, you don't start with a detailed, worked-out plot or anything more than a part-glimpsed plan, you really do let the characters tell you what should happen next.

Generally, I don't believe in heroes. I wouldn't want to trust one. I get more from ordinary, flawed, people in situations that take them out of their normal lives. Then things get interesting as you see how they struggle with what seems for them the impossible. And I want to resolve things in the end in their favour. My way, if you like, of righting some of the wrongs, albeit in a small way.

There are two of Stephen King's aphorisms that I take seriously. The first: 'The road to hell is paved with adverbs.' So, where at all possible I don't use them. The second: 'Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.' I never use a dictionary or a thesaurus.

Finally, I'd emphasise the importance of the 'polishing' stage in the writing process. Once the words have formed themselves out of the characters' wishes, once the story has been told, the real work begins. Writing and rewriting, working and reworking the text to give it as much shine and polish as you can muster. And there's then always the hope in discovering another of the goals suggested by Stephen King – that seldom achieved 'gem' where you contribute a striking and novel turn of language that lights up the whole show.

Best wishes


Seb


message 3: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Alaspa (bryanalaspa) | 13 comments It's an interesting question. I rarely do any outlines, at least for my fiction work. I always do them for non-fiction. These days, though, I have to start keeping character lists. My plots have gotten more complex and I cannot keep track of all of the names like I used to. Mostly, the story tells itself to me. I just have to listen and type what it says and, sometimes, I am as surprised to see what happens to a character as I hope the reader is.


message 4: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Bryan

Thanks for that insight. That's very much what I find.

Best wishes


Seb


message 5: by Redd (new)

Redd Kaiman (reddkaiman) | 2 comments When it doesn't suck, it's a lot of fun.

And that is why I write.


message 6: by Martin (new)

Martin Lake (goodreadscommartin_lake) | 3 comments I mainly write historical fiction and this is one of the ways I go about it. At the moment I’m busy writing the third novel in my The Lost King series. I have written the first few chapters.

At the same time I am busy sorting out the plot. I am doing this by listing all the known events which took place in the years 1070 to 1076 when the novel is set. I then put next to this what I imagine my hero Edgar Atheling would be doing in relation to these events. Some, of course, are noted in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle and other sources. Others I have to surmise from allusion.

The interesting and challenging part of this is trying to sort out dates to firmly tie the historical and fictional events together. I have learnt this afternoon when the following events occurred: the Nones of June , Easter Day, Lent and the mass-day of Saint Grimbald. (If you don’t know it, and I didn’t, Saint Grimbald was a big friend of King Alfred the Great.) For the purposes of the novel and because I could not find out otherwise I have assumed that his mass-day was the same as his feast day. (If anyone knows different please get in touch.)

I then like to look at conflict points and link these with the merged historical and fictional events. Finally, just to keep an eye on the overall flow, I see if the story accords in any way to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. Interestingly, it does, although with several repetitions and loops which is fine by me.


message 7: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Martin

Thanks for sharing. An interesting insight into how to write historical fiction!


message 8: by Tim (new)

Tim Stevens (timstevens) | 6 comments I tried Stephen King's approach with my novel Ratcatcher. At 30,000 words I hit a brick wall, an absolute dead end in the plot. Had no idea where I was going.

So I gritted my teeth and started again, this time with a five-page outline of the plot. I still managed to surprise myself along the way, and I used several of the scenes from the original abortive draft, so it hadn't been a completely wasted month.


message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 4 comments How do I write? Painfully slowly, at all stages of the process and irrespective of whether I'm following an outline. For me, 700 words is a good day. I have to become more productive, as much for my own sanity as for commercial success. Any advice?


message 10: by Tim (new)

Tim Stevens (timstevens) | 6 comments How long have you been writing, Michael? The reason I ask is that I too used to be a far slower writer than I liked. I'd revise each line, agonise over each word.

Then I started setting myself a target. Ten thousand words a week - that allowed me to go slowly on the weekends if I'd achieved 2000 words each weekday. It meant writing even if I knew what I was writing was rubbish, and not editing constantly. Soon it became a lot easier.

I'm still not a naturally fast writer, but I now allow myself to remember that anything I write can be subsequently changed, and it's helped me become far more productive.


Tim


message 11: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 4 comments Okay, Tim, if that works for you--and I can see it does, from what I've read of Ratcatcher--I'll try it. I've been writing for a long time, but mostly that's been non-fiction magazine pieces. I can write those much faster, once I've done the research. But fiction is different. I think it's a matter of trusting myself, and I have not yet learned to do that. Yes, I think it's important to let yourself write rubbish.
Ten thousand words a week, I'll give it a go. Thanks for the advice.


message 12: by Tim (new)

Tim Stevens (timstevens) | 6 comments You're welcome, Michael. And thanks for the kind words about Ratcatcher - I hope it lives up to whatever promise it's shown. Incidentally, I got 30,000 words into Ratcatcher before hitting a brick wall as far as the plot was concerned. With a heavy heart I went back and wrote a proper plot outline for the first time, then started from scratch. It was tough, but it had to be done.


message 13: by Tim (new)

Tim Stevens (timstevens) | 6 comments Whoops, sorry, just noticed I already told that story earlier in the thread!


message 14: by Muffy (last edited May 28, 2012 12:39AM) (new)

Muffy Morrigan (muffymorrigan) | 3 comments Hi Michael!

I have been writing moSt of my life, but only just really hit on the way to make my writing better, more complete and richer. I'be found that treating writing as a craft-a musical instrument almost - works well for me
even if, when I sit down to write and the novel just isn't there, I do "scales" short stories, blogs anything to make sure I write every day.
Muffy


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 4 comments Hello, Muffy. Yes, I can see the sense in this. I've found it useful in getting over blocks. Not sure if it would make me write faster though. Just more words to produce ...
Thanks for the tip, though


message 16: by Muffy (new)

Muffy Morrigan (muffymorrigan) | 3 comments Hi! After a while though it does let you write faster--just like a musician can play faster/more complex pieces. And sometimes falling back on "scales" really helps as well. I try and write every day even if it's not what I am actually working on. I aim for 5000 and usually hit somewhere around there even if it's not really something that I am using to "perform".

Oh! I have another tip and this one sounds insane, but it helped me get over this massive block with The Sail Weaver. I wrote fanfiction--not in someone else's world but in my own. I just took a character and fanfic-ed. It broke the damn and suddenly I was writing again!


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael Boxall (michaelcboxall) | 4 comments Okay, Muffy, maybe I'll try that. 5,000 words a day? That amazes me.


message 18: by Muffy (last edited May 30, 2012 11:01PM) (new)

Muffy Morrigan (muffymorrigan) | 3 comments I admit I am a bit of a freak that way. I used do news and that helps, but the fanfic really can help get past a block. I know it sounds insane, but it really helps!


message 19: by S.M. (new)

S.M. Johnson (smjohnsonwrites) I've been really slow lately, too - 700 to 1500 words a day, which is just miserable as far as production goes. It's been getting really rough with my serial novel, in which my goal is to post 1000 - 1500 words every Sunday, and the last couple of weeks all I seem to have written is boring minutia.

Today I switched to another character's POV, and kicked out 3000 words in a couple of hours. So apparently I just have a really hard time writing 1 person's POV for a whole book. Shrug. That's really good for me to know!


message 20: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Thanks for those insights.

The Stephen King approach as I employ it implies a great deal of rewriting and subsequent polishing followed by editing. So this is always going to be a slow process for me. Yet Stephen's own books are many and, recently, quite long.......

Best wishes


Seb


message 21: by Tim (new)

Tim Stevens (timstevens) | 6 comments Seb, I think King's advice is enormously appealing - he likens a story to a fossil that's already there and needs careful unearthing - but potentially quite damaging to a jobbing writer who can write well but lacks the storytelling instinct of, say, Stephen King.

And even King himself has slipped up. It, one of his most iconic novels (published 1996), resolves its plot with the most blatant Deus ex Machina anyone has been allowed to get away with since 1984 or thereabouts.

Tim


message 22: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Tim

Agreed.

I find that a great deal of editing and polishing is required.

As Gene Wolfe said: You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing.

So, I think we all experiment. But what I like about Stephen's approach is the emphasis on surprising yourself as you write.

Best wishes

Seb


message 23: by John (new)

John Walsh | 4 comments Hi Seb,

One of my favorite topics. I am fascinated by how others write.

I never outline. I tried it several times, and it kills the desire to write--I just WROTE it, why bother? I Have to become really wrapped up in a story or idea so I am thinking about it when I'm not writing.

There is no way around it, I have to write to get ideas to write, not sit around thinking, and not following a strict outline or routine. What usually happens is I see a movie and get an idea from a moment, an image, usually that of a woman. Music is frequently involved. One novel I spent a couple of years on was inspired by an image I saw while listening to a film score--an image of a young woman being charged by a robot. (The robot made that one appearance in the book, and after the first draft, the entire scene was cut.) It doesn't matter if the moment of inspiration remains after it has done its work. I think of it as a rock or form, or to go in the other direction, like an inflated balloon I add plaster and sticks and wet newspaper to, and eventually the balloon pops, but this THING I made on top of it wouldn't have existed if that balloon wasn't there first.

This isn't very helpful I'm afraid because the truth is, there is no one way--and I suspect that's true of everyone, whatever they may say. I started a short story about a man in his fifties with several partners who come upon a motel where creatures they've been hunting are hiding out. That story led to more, and soon I was writing a novel. But I needed to explain the world more, so I backed up and showed this man as a teenager. What began as some kind of modern-day vampire-creature hunter story became this decades-spanning epic of the collapse of civilization, the vampires gone.

Music, women and an image--painting, movie, photograph. Combine those, and I am off.

If I responded to this topic a week ago, my answer would be at least 75% different.


message 24: by Julian (last edited Jun 15, 2012 02:51PM) (new)

Julian Darius (juliandarius) Everyone's different, and there's no one way to write.

Personally, the phrase "I have to write to get ideas to write" scares the hell out of me.

For me, a story might start with an image or an idea, to which characters and a narrative get attached. But by the time I've written a page, or a scene, or just thought about it a little, I'm thinking structurally. I see the story's beats, and I see how things have got to be set up to get there. I might have a few other scenes or images too, and it all gets fitted into an outline in my head. The structure of the story flows from this, because it's clear that, if a major change or reveal is going to work, the status quo needs to be developed over time and to work on its own terms.

This same high thinking-to-writing ratio continues during the writing and the editing. As a story gels, its themes become a lot clearer to me and grow more complex. There are whole layers that wouldn't be there, if I just wrote, instead of meditated upon the story, often for years. A lot of times, I'll realize that what I thought was straightforward, on the part of a character, intrinsically has other meanings or implications, and the whole story becomes more subtle as a result. Or I'll realize that a character's occupation is close to another that would be a lot more resonant. Implications, themes, and nuances all grow slowly over time.

For this reason, I can't imagine forcing myself to write a certain number of thousands of words a day. That seems so artificial to me, and I think the result is bound to be undeveloped stuff. Of course, editing will help it, but I rarely write a thousand words unless I know what they're doing. The details of what I plan still evolve in the writing, but I've got to know what the characters are doing and where the scene is going. If I don't, I stop.

Chuck Palahniuk gave similar advice: know what each chapter's doing. To which I'd add, know where it is in the overall story and where you are in the chapter. Each chapter has an agenda. Characters may fight that agenda. But unless you know where you're going, I don't know how to get there.

I do recognize that some great novels have been written with no plans in sight. I've tried that too, and it's fun, but it doesn't go on that way. Inevitably, at least a sketchy outline starts developing, and I think my stories work because of this: it's all of a piece, and by the time it's done, it couldn't really be too different than it is.

Argh. Hard to explain. My best to everyone, whatever your methods!


message 25: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
John / Julian

Thanks for your well-considered thoughts.

It really goes to show what a complex and individualistic activity it is!

Best wishes


Seb


message 26: by Billie (new)

Billie Hinton (goodreadscombillieh) | 2 comments I too begin with an image or a scene, maybe a few lines - often I have an ending in mind before I ever start the book, but as often that doesn't turn out to be the actual ending once I get to it.

It works well though to have something to write to, early in the process.

No outlines - I follow the characters and try as best I can to get a rough draft fairly quickly while everything is bursting and blooming in my head.

It's in the subsequent passes that threads get pulled through, plot lines are tweaked, etc. Once I have a fairly clean draft I start seeing layers that I can expand on. Little bits and pieces that I plugged in early on that suddenly start to connect and make sense to me.

I think this process of discovery is why I love writing so much - it never fails to surprise me just how much my subconscious and unconscious work with and for me as I careen through the first wild draft. :)

Another thing I do fairly obsessively is that each time I come to the desk to work on the project, I start from the beginning and read my way to where I stopped, doing minor editing along the way. Something about this gets me deeply into the story and I am usually chomping at the bit to get rolling by the time I get to where I'd left off.

Love reading how others work - fascinating stuff!


message 27: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Billie,

Agreed. It is fascinating how we get there in our different ways. Interesting to see that yours is a process of discovery, like mine.

Best wishes


Seb


message 28: by Julian (new)

Julian Darius (juliandarius) Billie, I agree completely about getting into the feel of things by reading and editing what you've already written and / or revised. That's great advice.

It is fascinating to see the differences too. Thanks for posting, everyone! ;)


message 29: by John (new)

John Walsh | 4 comments Hi Folks,

I have been working on a new book, and I almost wish I had a camera recording the process; I think a documentary that shows how one person wrote his book would be very educational to those who have never tried, but think they know how it's done.

It also reinforces the Gene Wolfe comment about writing a book shows you how to write THAT book--it really isn't a skill you learn and then repeat forever, at least not in my case (and that is all I'm doing, making statements about MY experience).

I never found Stephen King's book illuminating at all--it seemed like I'd heard it all before, and I prefer a more nuts-and-bolts approach. His approach seemed to be 'Just start writing about what you want to write about, and just keep at it till it's done, then put it away for awhile." OK, but that's like saying you build a car by following a schematic and just put all the pieces where it tells you to put them, and then you're done.

It seems I have two very basic kinds of book process--head-on and sideways. Head-on means I want to write a type of book, or write a book about a feeling or idea, and then just try out ideas that seem to work. But the more interesting books I've written come out of the 'sideways' approach--I get an idea while writing something else, a related but different one, and I try to shoo it away, but the idea, image or story keeps nagging me until I peck away at it, until I've got a pile of pages.

It's like the head-on stories are able to be put together mechanically--OK, my hero does this, now THIS will happen, but then this character will do THIS, etc.--while the sideways books are more organic. In the latest example of that, there is a lot of conflict of the spiritual/emotional nature but no antagonist--all four main characters are cooperating with each other, and I keep wondering "Who the hell wants to read this, it's just people working on this problem and then...well, it's iNTERESTING, but who else is gonna think so?" These books are always a little scary to write, in a good way.

As for my current one, I've spent so much time trying to work up to writing about it I've run out of break time, and now have to go write some more.

Hope everyone is writing and enjoying it.


message 30: by Nick (new)

Nick Wastnage (nickwastnage) | 16 comments Hi Folks

I've been away for some time and I'm glad to be back.

How do you write? Well, I've no magic formula, I just stick to a routine that I feel comfortable with that allows me to write in a way that I think produces a good read.

I read and edit until I believe my work is as good as I can get it. I redraft a book up to seven times before I send it to my editor. Then it comes back, and I change it again.

I've just finished a huge project of rewriting six of the seven books I've written, to improve on them for kindle editions. This process gave me an insight into a lot of the mistakes I've made, and, as a result, now feel more confident about my writing than I ever have.

I've read a lot of advice on writing, see many lists of 'dos and don'ts,' and been to several writing workshops. The best thing I learnt was to find your voice – a style and way of writing that you are confident and happy with. Then write that way.

I don't write from the seat of my pants. I plan, plot, research, and draw up my characters in great detail before I start. I have a rough outline of what is going to happen before I start. I'm a thriller writer, and find if I don't work that way my story goes off at a tangent and the plot becomes diluted or weak.

I do use a thesaurus and a dictionary. I'm a great admirer of Stephen Kind, but I'm not him, and I need those tools. The dictionary is simply a tool to find the correct spelling. The thesaurus is to find the perfect word and avoid repetition. If a word doesn't seem right, I'll search until I find one that I'm happy with.

For me, the most important things in a book are the plot, the characters, the dialogue, and how a book is written.

I don't know if any of this helps, but it's a short summary of how I go about my writing, and it works for me.

See you all again soon.


message 31: by Seb (last edited Aug 17, 2012 01:26PM) (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Julian, John, Nick

Thanks for those great insights.

I'm working hard now on my third thriller. It's essentially a sequel to my first TAKE NO MORE.

What I'm finding, and to my surprise, is that since I'm dealing with a number of the same characters who were in the first book, I'm having to think ahead more along the lines of, now how would they respond in that situation? So, is it a case that sequels are likely to be less spontaneous - and hence depart more from the Stephen King ideal - than the first novel in a series?

Best wishes



Seb


message 32: by Nick (new)

Nick Wastnage (nickwastnage) | 16 comments That's interesting, as I'm just about to start on a follow on to my last book where I'll use the same main character and a couple of characters from previous books. I not worried about the spontaneous thing, just looking forward to developing the characters more. I did a short as a sequel/tester for the new book and received favourable reactions from my beta readers. I think it's good getting into the mind of your characters, it makes them more interesting and empathetic with the readers. Anyway, best of luck with it. By the way, I read Take No More some time ago and forgot to say how much I enjoyed it.


message 33: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Nick

Thanks. That's a good idea, trying out the idea of a sequel as a short to test the water. And I agree that a sequel should be the opportunity to get further inside the character(s) involved.

And thanks for the kind words on TAKE NO MORE. Much appreciated!

Best wishes

Seb


message 34: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Nick,

Thanks.

What a good idea to try out a sequel as a short!

And, yes, I agree that a sequel should be a good opportunity to get further inside the character(s).

Thanks, by the way, for the comment on TAKE NO MORE. Much appreciated.

I see that you have 10 novels out. If I was to start reading, which one would you recommend I try first?

Best wishes


Seb


message 35: by Nick (new)

Nick Wastnage (nickwastnage) | 16 comments Thanks for the interest. Try Playing Harry, it's really the latest I've written. All the others are rewrites of stories I wrote a little while ago. I changed them a little, and tidied them up to publish as ebooks. It's Playing Harry that I am about to start on the follow up.

Best wishes

Nick


message 36: by Seb (last edited Aug 23, 2012 02:17PM) (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Nick

Checked out the online sample. Looks very good!

Best wishes


Seb


message 37: by Larry (new)

Larry Garner (larryanimalgarner) | 8 comments I just published my first novel, D-E-D, DEAD. I really thought I was probably doing everything wrong, because I had no outline, no concrete plot.

It seems I may have been channeling Stephen King, as I just wrote what the characters and the situation asked for. It was a lot of fun (that's one reason I figured I was doing it wrong) and I surprised myself regularly. It was as if I was watching a movie and writing down what I saw.

I'm so glad I found this site! I'll be watching closely for things to make my life easier. Thanks for allowing me to pick your brains.


message 38: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Larry

Great to hear that the Stephen King thing has been working for you, too.

Best wishes


Seb


message 39: by Wayne (new)

Wayne Smallman (waynesmallman) | 6 comments Yes, a very good question.

Earth Day (a novella) just came to me and then subsequently poured out of me while taking pause for breath while writing Ascending Angels (a novel that's not due for publication for another year at least), which also just about poured out of me as easily as breathing.

However, that really wasn't the case with A Darkening of Fortune (a recently published novel), and for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I kind of predicted the riots in London of 2011, which totally upended the story and forced a major re-write of the first third of the novel, to account for factual events over-running those of fiction.

Secondly, the story became so very difficult to close, where I had two false endings, and three different actual endings.

I do use a planning process, where I write down the whole of the story as one huge synopsis, with passages of dialogue and notes on character development, and this process helps iron out plot weaknesses, contradictions, and continuity errors.

But the problem is, I would often just write to the half way stage and then wing it! Not a problem for Earth Day and Lucidity, and I imagine Ascending Angels just flowed naturally. But for novels, it's not sufficient to just leave things to the imagination.

Now I write the entire planning document — the "Chronology" — which takes more time, but the richness I derive from this longer process is worth it in the end, especially with the stories I come up with, where there's always a twist at the end.


message 40: by M.S. (new)

M.S. Nightingale (msnightwriter) I think it's important for the writer to be surprised as well. When you develop well-rounded characters, they do seem to take on a life of their own, and sometimes insist on going down a different path than what you had intended in the beginning.

Somebody asked me if I created outlines first, and I said no, I tend to let my characters tell the story. They looked at me like I was crazy, and asked if I thought they really talked to me. LOL.

I do also use a dictionary and a thesaurus. I Like to create portraits of my main characters to hang in my office. And, I also keep charts with character descriptions handy.


message 41: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Sciarillo (sciajoe) | 3 comments I think every writer finds a comfortable way to create a story. I outline general scenes that I think will move my story forward. Once I start writing characters do take over. In my last novel the character I originally thought would be my antagonist became my main character and my original main character became his mentor. It didn't affect my outline much but changed my understanding of my own story. When a character does the unexpected you often have to go with the character and see where leads you and develops the story. I know exactly what your are talking about. I believe it is wise to let the characters tell the story when they develop on their own.


message 42: by M.S. (new)

M.S. Nightingale (msnightwriter) That just happened to me on my current work. Funny how characters can be pesky like that and seem to beg for a chance for a different role. But that makes it fun and interesting. :)


message 43: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Sciarillo (sciajoe) | 3 comments I have experienced this in two of my novels. In both cases the characters behaved in a way that make me ask - where did that come from. I believe that it is better not to fight the characters. I can honestly say that sometimes the character action and reaction comes so fast that I wonder if I am writing or the character is. I cannot explain it. I often make deliberate efforts, foreshadow build traits and ticks into my characters but I have times where I do not think I am in control. I know I often fall asleep thinking about what I'll write the next day and have often thought that I work on the stories in my sleep.


message 44: by M.S. (new)

M.S. Nightingale (msnightwriter) Yes! Some of my scenes came from dreams while I was writing. But, we get so absorbed in writing that it is on our minds all the time. I remember when I finished my first trilogy book, I felt sad that my characters weren't going to be my constant companions.

Perhaps that is TMI. But, that's what it is like to be a writer IMO.


message 45: by S.B. (new)

S.B. Roozenboom | 2 comments I have to be very inspired to write (which as of recent has been hard with my busy, crazy life) but music is usually what pumps up a vision of an idea in my head, then I start writing the prolog and first chapter and I make a list of notes for the book in another Word file


message 46: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Shaver | 2 comments I began writing an idea for a book 12 years ago. Life happened and several moves later I found the hard copy I had printed. I sat down and reread it. I thought man I need to do something with this. A friend read it and said the same thing. Again I set it to the side when my daughter had my first grandchild earlier than her due date. :) About 3 weeks ago I pulled it back out and finally started retyping my original. I now have 35,000 words completed.

I have found that as many of you have said the characters tell their own story, we just put it in black and white. I am currently working towards completing the story and hope to have it available by early fall. I am also working on the graphics for the cover.

As for my writing style. I have not done an outline. I have a character list with dates of birth and such. The initial concept was roughly 15 typed pages. I have really let the story tell itself. And yes the characters are embedded in my head and therefore constantly with me. I have jotted notes down when things come to mind that they may say or do.
Lisa (a Newbie LOL)


message 47: by Stan (last edited Jul 31, 2014 03:17AM) (new)

Stan Arnold | 1 comments I'm a copywriter, and for eight years was a stand-up comedian telling funny stories (no jokes)! I wrote songs for the BBC and songs for the one-man show. The idea of writing a novel was too frightening. If someone doesn't like a 3-minute song, so what! If you're doing a live show, you get instant feedback (laughter). But if I'd spent five months writing a novel and someone didn't like it... I daren't even think about the pain!

Anyway I've nearly finished my fifth funny novel. It started by having an idea in my head that wouldn't go away. So to get rid of it, I wrote the idea down, and realised I'd got the first chapter of a story. I sat down and thought I wonder what happens next? So I wrote chapter 2. After about 10,000 words, I wrote the end chapter (I like to know where I'm going). Then I had to plot out who did what and when, because related actions were taking place at different locations and with different characters. Then I winged it to the end.

And that's how the other books were written. Write the first 10,000 words, then write the end, then colour in the bits between, using plot structuring, where necessary. I write about 1000 words a day, but I am trying to make things funny, so that's an extra job - you're constantly looking for funny dialogue or situations.

I keep a 'parallel' document for notes of funny ideas, funny phrases, new characters and plot twists. If anything occurs to me in the night, I get up and add it to the document. I use the web constantly for research.

And yes, the characters do take over - fortunately, they have the same sense of humour as me. In fact, sometimes, I think they're funnier.


message 48: by Alex (new)

Alex Ames (alex_ames_writing) | 1 comments I can go with Stan's approach. Usually I have a very rough outline, depending on the height of the mystery or thriller concept: the desperate situation, the hero's conflict and the overall outcome. Often I also already add major turning points. The reason why I bring in the "high concept" thing: there are stories that depend on a tight track of actions or people (e.g. typical heist situations, "The sting" stories etc.). I currently write a science fiction horror high speed thriller and really have to make sure to keep track of all the aliens and invaded characters.

I then sit down, do the first few chapters to see if the idea holds together. Then I add either the last chapter (same reason as Stan noted: to have a beacon to guide the story). Alternatively I write some fun chapters from the middle, e.g. a super tight action sequence or a very emotional turning point.
After that the rest is just work work work. And during this course of writing, I move into Seb's style. And I totally agree, nothings's worse to bore yourself or the reader with inadequate style, turns and surprises.


message 49: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
I get the idea of writing the last chapter when you're 10,000 or so words in. It's good to have that target to aim for. I think, whether we write it down or not, we all have the ending of the story in mind once we've made a decent start. But that doesn't avoid the problem of the 'difficult middle', the place where many writers spend a great deal of time, as I'm discovering with my latest.


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