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How do YOU write?

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Schmara

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When starting a new project, what process do you go through? Do you plan it out ahead of time, covering all major plot points and character arcs, etc? Do you just have a loose idea in your head of beginning, middle, and end and then let the writing fill it all in? Or do you just start writing and let it flow and see where you end up? Do you have another process entirely that I haven't mentioned? Are you consistent in your process or is it different for every book? This is just something that fascinates me, and I'd love to see it discussed here.
#1 - May 11, 2012, 06:54 PM

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When I write the ideas just flow out, but at some point in the process I have to start plotting in order to get the story to move forward.

I have a blog posts on how stories come to writers here: http://www.stacybarnettmozer.com/2012/05/how-do-you-write.html.

#2 - May 11, 2012, 09:01 PM
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xC0000005

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Many of my story ideas start as one line of dialog, or two at most.  Then I work my way backwards from that and form people and situations around it.  I know that's weird but it works for me.  The characters start interlocking and suddenly I realized that for point D to happen, B MUST have happened first, and B means for certain C must exist.  The result is...interesting.  I put all the little flashes and exchanges into a blob at the end of the rough draft and pull them out to form scenes around as I go.
#3 - May 11, 2012, 09:07 PM

Schmara

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I loved that blog post, Stacy. It's neat to think of writers in those different terms. From your list, I think I'm a bit of a movie-maker and a bit of a visual writer. I tend to see, hear, and feel short scenes in my head, but sometimes I just see a snapshot instead of watching a whole scene.

I'm delving into my first MG right now (previously I've just done PB) and I have this general idea from the scenes in my head, but there's so much missing that I'm just filling in as it comes. I'm sure there will be a whole lot of fixing I'll have to do at the end to make things mesh. I think at some point I'm going to have to do what you said, though, and do some specific plotting before I can move on. I just need to get to know my characters a little better first.

Your method is so interesting, xC0. So I have to ask, do you end up writing your stories out of order, as you think of the different scenes, etc, and then put them in order after they're written? Or do you write it out basically in order and then go back and fill in with the "flashes and exchanges" from your blob at the end? (Obviously in the course of editing, there will be some moving around of things, but do you mean to write in order or not to begin with is what I'm asking, I guess.)
#4 - May 12, 2012, 06:14 AM

spochron

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I usually start with a hook. That's the fun and easy part. Then I have to finish the project. Sadness.
#5 - May 12, 2012, 06:23 AM

Natalie C Parker

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Right now, I wish my process would even out a bit, but it seems to change for each book. The last project I worked on had a very firm starting point. Once I'd written the first chapters, the excavated the rest very slowly - even though I knew where the book was going, the precise how was elusive.

On the project I'm working on now, I've had to rewrite the beginning chapters several times. I know the basic bones of the story, I know the feelings I want it to evoke and the direction it will go, but it's taken me several weeks to strike the right chord at the beginning.

The only things that have stayed the same from project to project are: I have to know the feelings/tone I want to evoke, the inciting action, a sense of where the story will end. The process of getting between each of those points seems to be annoyingly mutable. 
#6 - May 12, 2012, 06:47 AM

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I'm like Natalie. I start, first and foremost, with a feeling or an atmosphere. Everything else - character, story and theme - come from that. Most of it I discover as I go, but I need to have that atmosphere, and a sense of the MC's goal, motivation and conflict from the very beginning.

Most of my first draft is figuring out how to express that feeling as clearly as I possibly can.

I really, really wish I was more of a planner, but my first ideas are never my best ones and if I try to stick with a predetermined plot my story begins to feel stale really quickly.
#7 - May 13, 2012, 06:06 PM

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I get an initial seed of an idea that sprouts over a period of time....and I scribble ideas in a notebook or any available scrap of paper.  Then I sit and outline and separate the ideas into the chapters, etc.  I love to plan and plot.
#8 - May 13, 2012, 06:15 PM

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I used to just write with only minimal plotting but ended up having to revise a zillion times and stories that weren't quite strong enough. This time around (for my YA), I'm doing much more time working on the story idea first as well as outlining and background info (character motivation, etc.).

I'm hoping all this prep won't suck the joy out of the actual writing process, but also hoping that the pay-off will be a stronger story.
#9 - May 13, 2012, 07:13 PM
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GraceRouth

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It's interesting to read all of these! Thanks! I checked out the blog post from Stacey's response and loved it! I hear voices in my head....and they won't leave me alone until they make it to the paper! While my strengths are in voice and dialogue, I struggle with plot structure. So I've had to work really hard on learning how stories fit together. I guess we all have our strengths and weaknesses!
#10 - May 13, 2012, 07:51 PM

YAScribe

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Great topic! And one I'm asking myself right now as I prepare to draft a new novel. My story idea starts with a question--what if. . .Then I think about the who and the where. Then I think about the opening scene. Lots of thinking and note taking. Then I'll interview my MC, Oprah style. Then I take a few deep breaths, sit down, and write. And write. And write. Until it's done. ^_^
#11 - May 13, 2012, 08:12 PM

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... Do you just have a loose idea in your head of beginning, middle, and end and then let the writing fill it all in? ...

 ^^
This.  Later drafts are where things really come together for me.
#12 - May 13, 2012, 08:26 PM

Schmara

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Thanks for all the replies! Isn't it interesting how everyone does it just a bit differently? I think I'm going to have to push myself to work more on plotting. I'd like to just write and see where it goes, but I think it's leading nowhere.  :whistle So a bit more structured planning might be in my near future here.
#13 - May 15, 2012, 09:17 AM

jeffman

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There is no doubt that I discover a lot of things while I'm drafting. But I also do a lot of planning before I draft. It's messy planning. A lot of note-taking, a lot of free writing, automatic Zombie-like writing, etc. A lot of it contradicts earlier notes, which I don't change. I just leave the entire record of my evolving thoughts in place. Often, I get to a point in the planning where the stuff I'm writing looks like drafting. That's when I open a new document and actually start to draft.

I do this for the entire book before I draft anything. Then in the middle of drafting, I'll pause and use this method for individual scenes, chapters, groups of related chapters, etc.

I constantly challenge myself to think about conflict. If I start a new scene, I absolutely must know who wants what and what the outcome is before I draft anything. So back to taking notes. If I change my mind in the midst of drafting, that's fine.
#14 - May 15, 2012, 09:33 AM

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I tend to plot out the first couple of chapters and know what the general trajectory and ultimate end will be, then plot as I go--I'm usually about one and a half to three chapters ahead of where I'm actually writing.  For me, it blends the best of both plotting and pantsing.
#15 - May 15, 2012, 10:05 AM
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For my PBs, I'm a pantser -- just start with a general idea or image or character and draft it up. But for my MG, I plotted. Then, as I wrote the first two chapters the plot changed entirely and the rest was drafted as Marissa said. I didn't do much deep character work, which I'm now regretting as a face my revisions! Eh, live and learn.....  :)
#16 - May 15, 2012, 12:24 PM

I think I'm closest to Marissa in approach. I know what I want to accomplish, what feel I want to get across with the words. I'll determine where the conflicts lay and why. Who are the characters, and why are they like they are? I know where I want it to go, though exactly how it is going to get there is a tad foggy sometimes.
Then I word-paint a chapter. This is for theme, mood . . . like building a stage set before I've written the play. From there, everything happens. Revisions are expected. Changes of path are commonplace, but the finish line is understood and in focus.

Nice thread; I've enjoyed reading the posts here.
#17 - May 15, 2012, 01:57 PM

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