SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

How do you write?

Discussion started on


I know this is a very general question, but I am curious about how all of you write. For example, do you use an outline or index cards? Do you write a certain amount every day? Do you use a word processor, special program, pen an paper, or computer? This question primarily is directed to those of you who write MG and YA novels... but anyone can answer.

I mostly write picture books and short stories. I try to produce a certain number of words every day, even if I have writer's block. This helps me get over a block. Also, for picture books I often use a storyboard once I already have written some of my thoughts on paper or in the computer. This helps me visualize my story as a book, and it also lets me know whether or not it would work with a 32 page format. I have not written a novel, so I do not know what technique I would use to write something that length. Eventually I would like to try writing a MG book; however, this would be very new territory for me.
#1 - April 08, 2008, 12:38 PM
« Last Edit: April 08, 2008, 01:09 PM by aclaire1980 »


I write everything on my computer and then go back and do corrections later. So I just type until I can't type anymore.
when I am away from my computer then i write in a look ringed book and transfer my story to the computer later.  :bangcomputer
#2 - April 08, 2008, 01:06 PM

Member In Memoriam
Poster Plus
For the last book, I made myself write 1k per day, every day, no excuses. I don't outline, but I get a general sense of what is going to happen before I start. Writing every day really helps, and I was able to finish the YA in less than three months (I missed a little over Christmas break - why I started a novel in mid November I don't know).
#3 - April 08, 2008, 01:41 PM
Transcendence (Walker) - June 2012
Sequel (Walker) - June 2013
Dirty Little Secrets (Walker) - Feb 2010
6:00 in SF - 2009


My only rule is that I try to do "writer's work" every day. Usually, this means writing, but it can sometimes mean outlining or, at the start of the process, just thinking a LOT about my story. Then I type on a laptop and try (usually unsuccessfully) to remove the editor's hat during the first draft. When it's all done, I print that puppy out, snuggle up with it in bed and start editing the small stuff and making notes in a spiral on the big stuff. I go back to the computer, make the changes, print it again, and do the whole thing all over. About the time I'm sick to death of the thing, I give it to a select group of people to read. I make the final changes and then send it off and pray.
#4 - April 08, 2008, 07:30 PM

I always use the computer.  I just use MS Word 2000, no fancy writing software or anything.  I'll make handwritten notes if I have to be away from my desk (like during potty breaks) but I usually don't write much when away from my computer.

I wish I could say I'm highly organized.  I'm not.  But when I get in my writing mode, I try to average no less than two pages per hour, and try to set deadlines for when I will have a first draft done, and once I start editing I try to set a deadline for the submission draft.  I stink at following my own deadlines, however.  My first book took seventeen years to write.  My second only took a year, but actual time spent working on it was more like two months.  My third is unfinished and a partial is languishing on my editor's desk with its fate as yet undetermined.  But I'm a week away from finishing my fourth, which I've been working on for about a month.  What is helping me now is I promised my agent a book next week, and with my honor at stake I will glue my butt to my chair and git'r done.

#5 - April 08, 2008, 10:58 PM
LUNCHBOX AND THE ALIENS, 2006 Holt; 2009 Square Fish

For the first draft, I write long hand and try to eke out 1000 words a day.  I don't outline, although I might make a note or two so I don't lose my train of thought.
#6 - April 11, 2008, 07:11 PM


If I'm working on a PB idea I just sit and write.  I scribble, scratch, moan, groan, sit in silence, and cuss as I work the idea out over many messy pages.  Then I transfer it to the computer for fine tuning. 

For my MG I'm pecking away at right now, I tried to write with only an idea of where I wanted to go, but after two total rewrites and trashing several thousand words I have learned that does not work for me.  It appears that I need to plot my stories with some detail then write and adjust my outline as needed. So far this is working for me. 

Either way I have to start with pen and paper, which can be frustrating when you're transferring hundreds of hand written pages to the computer.  It is a good time to edit, though. 
#7 - April 12, 2008, 10:06 AM


I write everything in a cheap spiral notebook first.  It's a mess.  For PBs, I might write the entire thing over again five times before I like it at all.  Then I type it into the computer and print it out and mark it up.  I usually end up going back to the notebook to rewrite again.  I have to rewrite the whole thing, not just in bits, or I lose the voice and rhythm.  Then I type and print it again and try to dummy it/split it into pages.  Then I type it again...
#8 - April 13, 2008, 04:54 PM

Poster Plus
I used to always write longhand. For everything. But now my hand cramps up almost immediately (ah, aging, you are so rewarding) so now I do it all on my very old, cd-drive-taped-closed Vaio laptop. :) But, hey, it's small and it works.

And I am very disorganized. I have rewritten the first chapter like 10 times--I've got it saved all over the place. And when I make changes to one when I don't want to rewrite it completely, I don't save it into another doc or make notes in the doc, I actually delete and replace right there.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone does this as messily (is that a word?) as I do, but it is hard to change something so basic. When writing, I always seem to make myself force order out of chaos at the end of each project, be it for school or work. It looks like fiction will be the same.
#9 - May 08, 2008, 11:20 AM
YA reader/writer, ghostwriter, librarian.
Blueboard member since 2008


I'm experimenting with different techniques.  My first book I just typed into my word processor, with a weekly goal of 3000 or so words.  I'd type things in at random, doing Chapter 2 one time then Chapter 7 the next, so I guess I had a loose outline in my head.  Now I'm trying a written outline with the second book.  And I have another story I'm trying to write completely linearly, and only on notebook paper.

I think I prefer the first way the best, but I'm going to try to see the other techniques through--even though I struggle with them, I'm hoping that they force me to think differently and therefore expand my writing capabilities...
#10 - May 08, 2008, 05:17 PM


I change depending on the project I am working on. I have some projects in notebooks and others on the computer.
Wow! Typing this is making me realize I might need some organization intervention. What an insightful topic.
#11 - May 26, 2008, 12:19 PM


I do all my writing on the computer, using an old version of PageMaker or Microsoft Word.  I do keep a tablet by my bed and have been known to switch the light on a dozen times in the middle of the night.  My handwriting stinks and I would just frustrate myself if I tried to do anything that way. 
#12 - June 25, 2008, 07:22 PM


I basically make a shot list and then write the shots/images/scenes in what ever order I like. That way, I can write what I'm in the mood to write. The shot list serves as a basic outline.

I also try to do the first pass of editing as I go, to make my job at least a tiny bit easier (only a little) down the line.
#13 - July 28, 2008, 11:39 AM


I write to a outline, but basically this is because as one of my critique partners calls me, a "plotress." The outline always changes in the end though. I find it hard to just write without knowing the direction of my story. I try to write draft first through scenes and then go back to revise. I've learned the hard way that if I try to "edit" as I write, I would never get past Chapter 1.

#14 - July 28, 2008, 12:10 PM


I jot down ideas in a notebook, but when it comes to typing them out, I use my laptop and Microsoft Word 2007. I sit down and start typing. I don't write every day (have four children, lots of animals, and work outside the home). It has taken me five years to write, revise, revise, revise, revise (did I mention revise?) one novel. That novel is nearly ready for submission and in my defense, I did Nano and get one other rough draft of a novel and two partial drafts done in three of those five years.  :yup

I have since gone back to flesh out a time line of my first novel and the other three as well in order to keep things straight. When I do get time to write, I sit on my bed with my laptop, notes, etc. spread out around me and type for as long as I can. I'm hoping my job outside the home won't last too much longer (that sounds awful, I know, but it wasn't supposed to take this long to begin with . . . though it is a GREAT job) and then I will have my days to write, and write, and write (all four kids will be in school this year  :yay . . . I mean, I will miss them so much I won't be able to concentrate one little bit . . . yeah, that's what I meant) . . .

#15 - July 28, 2008, 01:06 PM


I do a basic chapter outline that is always subject to change as the story is being written.  I do my outlines and keep my notes on legal pads, while the actual writing goes on Word.  I try to do some type of writing "work" everyday, but my busy schedule means I have to scrimp for time to actually "write".  I get to write tuesday evenings, every other thursday evening and all day sunday, with sunday being the hardcore day.  By the time I get to sunday, I've had all week to think about what I'm going to write so when I sit down at the computer I can usually crank out several chapters. 
#16 - August 06, 2008, 08:42 AM


I start out with a broad rough outline in a notebook.  This basically maps out beginning middle and end for me.  Then I make a more detailed outline on my computer for the first third.  The writing begins, the outlines are adjusted and changed as I go.  It really is amazing to me how the book evolves and takes on a life of its own - regardless of what I've mapped out.   :D
#17 - August 07, 2008, 07:55 AM

Brookie Wookie

I am super unorganized so don't be like me...but I've been basically working on an MG for 4 1/2 years off and on--I have versions saved all over the place---under random email addresses-etc...I used to work on it at work (now I work from home) and I would email myself versions and revision suggestions and it got very confusing. I'm change my organization patterns all of the time. I usually will initially start writing on paper--and then move to computer--i'm most comfortable revising with pencil.
#18 - August 09, 2008, 11:04 AM


For the MG I finished earlier this summer, I had some handwritten notes and an idea in my head of where I thought the story would go. I would say I wasn't too organized and it showed, as I worked on it for over a year. For the story I'm currently writing, I made a storyboard. So far, I really like it. The writing seems to be going easier.
#19 - August 10, 2008, 06:21 PM


I flipflop around, I don't have a set way of doing things.
#20 - September 06, 2008, 07:41 AM


I write from an outline, but I don't write my chapters/scenes in order though.  Every day I look at my outline and then pick and choose whichever scene I'm inspired to write that day.  I typically do most of my writing on the computer, but I carry a small notebook around with me so that I can write on the tube to and from work (that is, if I can manage to get a seat!)

I like to set daily and monthly goals for myself.  For example, I started writing the YA novel I'm working on at the beginning of July.  I set a monthly goal of 15,000 words, which was about 500 words per day.  I met that goal by the end of the month pretty easily so I upped my monthly goal for August to 20,000 new words.
#21 - September 06, 2008, 09:07 AM

  • **
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region florida
After I've sat around for a while, ruminating on my characters and his/her story, I write down my info about them, ie, behavior and experiences that shaped them, what they love/hate. A snippet of a scene or dialogue may come to me at that time and I write that down too. Then I start writing and I use a spiral notebook, I don't like writing via compter. Doesn't feel right to me. I write three pages a day minimum, five to six days a week until the story is complete. At night, I type up the pages I've written that day.
#22 - September 06, 2008, 09:41 AM


I can't do outlines and plotting in advance, and I don't do the index cards. To start with I only have a basic idea that I build on in my head. Sometimes it starts with just a sentence and then it brews into something more. I write down little snippets and names as they enter my mind. I always jot down when I come to think of a funny name. I keep a notebook beside my bed and another one on my desk. My computer goes hot as I use it all day and evening with short breaks for whatever is necessary to have a life outside "my pretend world".

I have written more about my way of writing on my blog: You could possibly find it interesting how I save my documents. When I started doing it this way many years ago, as outlined on my blog, I always find the right file very quickly and have easy access to a previous one in case something bad has happened to the document. Some of you may already have great systems in place, but if you don't, you could take a look at my way.     
#23 - September 11, 2008, 07:24 AM


In my previous post, I stated my "normal" way of writing (jotting ideas down then writing . . . no advanced outlining). I am posting again because things have changed. I got an idea for a new novel and jotted down my notes as I usually do then set to writing. I got 5000 words into the novel and got stuck. I decided to take my notes with me when I went to pick my kids up from school (long lines to wait in). While there, I started a chapter by chapter synopsis. The ideas, subplots, etc. flowed so quickly that I managed to make it to chapter 16 of the synopsis. I've never worked from a plan like this before and have only done a chapter synopsis after the manuscript is completed (to check for problem areas).

We'll see how this method works for me, but right now, it seems like a good idea! Whether the chapters end up as they are in the outline remains to be seen . . .
#24 - September 20, 2008, 10:12 AM



I make notes in longhand and in my head know basically where the story is going.
I try writing straight through but if that doesn't work I may write chapter 3 now
and jump to chapter 7 and later pull it all together. I rewrite my first draft in longhand
and then type on the computer. I mark up this copy with notes and/or punctuation.
Then type almost final draft. Then let crit group read and critique. Fix it and type and send out.
#25 - September 20, 2008, 09:21 PM


I just write. I sit down and go. lol. It ends up becoming sort of choatic, maybe I should rethink that?
#26 - September 21, 2008, 10:03 AM

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region indiana
I thinks and thinks and then write out my first draft in long hand.

I transfer this to the computer, revising as I go, scribbling all over my legal pads to go back to some part in the story or perhaps typing it out and putting it at the bottom to be retreived latter. 

The first two drafts are vary chaotic, but then so am I.  :hahaha

By the time I get the second draft done, I am into revising and editing.

I have a choatic thinking mind, it does not think in outlines, plotlines and endings.  It just goes.

Now I have to finish my two books. :crossedfingers


#27 - September 22, 2008, 08:44 AM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

Sudo Nimm

I write pb's, which is about all my ADD brain can handle.  I always start them out as notes on a yellow legal pad.  These notes consist of collections of words, broad outlining, and even sketches when necessary.  I'll usually write a rough draft in  my notebook and transfer it to computer later.  I oftentimes print out the first draft, take it to a college library, and edit it with my trusty black ballpoint pen.  I'll then take this edited version and type version 2.0 on the computer.  I'll do as many rounds of this type of revising until my story is ready for my agent to review.

My method may seem a bit odd, but it's based on the fact of having to write on-the-go a lot, and of having an easier time editing an "objective" looking word-processed document.
#28 - October 03, 2008, 12:24 PM

I write late at night, in bed, lying on my stomach (in a pilates move - kind of - but not so pretty)

This is why I recommend a laptop. 

I have absolutely no organization - the words flow out as thoughts, rushing through my head, out to my hands.  I spew the word-vomit out on paper and then revise, revise, revise.  It's cleaning up the mess that takes the time.
#29 - October 03, 2008, 01:13 PM

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region oregon
I bought a laptop so I could be more spontaneous in my writing, but so far I've not written a word on it. Always go to the desktop for writing. I need to be more flexible, I guess. Live and learn!
#30 - October 03, 2008, 07:04 PM


0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.