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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Writing Process

JK Coi interviewed me on her blog the other day, and Elyssa Pappa stopped by and asked me a question about my writing process. It occurred to me I hadn't written about process in a long time.

Everyone goes about their writing differently. My way is sadly dull and anal, but it works for me. I'm rather methodical and like to know the beginning, middle and end of each thread inside the outline. That's not to say that the story itself isn't a big surprise to me. It is--every time.

I know what's going to happen. I just don't know how it comes about until I set to writing. But that's me. I like that safety net. It keeps me from rambling or going off on tangents. I think that's the reason my chapters are usually so tight right from the beginning.

But there are drawbacks to my method too. Sometimes I'm hesitant to explore other possibilities because it means I might have to rewrite whole sections.

That's why I incubate my outlines. I usually start with one concept sentence that says exactly what I think the book is about at that moment. It's not really a pitch, certainly nothing I would try to use on an agent or editor, but more along the lines of a simple guide.

With Touch Of Fire, the first concept sentence was: A mage is ordered to find a dangerous book and discovers things about herself she'd rather not know.

That was the very earliest idea. The heroine is damaged goods, but it takes her the length of the book until she realizes it. I don't bring in the hero, or the antagonists. I simply focus on her.

This then evolves to the hero's story, and then to the antagonist's story. Once I have all the major players then I can concentrate on what kind of obstacles each are going to face. The outline starts out as an embryo and emerges as a pretty well-formed baby by the time I'm done. Then I can start writing the story confidently without a lot of angst or interruptions.

I don't like to waste time. I am too bowed up now as it is, so this formula works well for me.

How about you guys? What's your favorite way to build a story?


Marianne Arkins said...

I know how it starts, and I usually do an in depth character study (interviews and writing samples scenes), and then I'll write a couple of chapters. Once that's done, I'll write then ending.

So, I know how it starts, and I know how it ends. I just don't know how they get there. That's the fun part.


Maria Zannini said...

The journey is the best part.

I think you are way ahead of your game too when you know where your story starts. The catalyst, the thing that sets the heroes off on their quest helps to keep you from "walking" to your real story.

Thanks for popping in Marianne!

Josephine Damian said...

At my age, I don't have time to type oodles of pages thast I'll ultimately throw out because I went down some dark, blind alley plot-wise. Over the years I've evolved from a pantster to a totally anal outlining plotter. I'd rather work a story out on paper first before I put it on the screen.

Maria Zannini said...

Me too. I would estimate 70% of my time is spent on the outline. The up side is that when I get down to writing, it is ultra smooth and fast.

If I can dedicate a solid 3 weeks to outlining, I can then finish a very polished first draft in a little over a month.

(enjoying your hiatus?) :o)

Carol Burge said...

I'm a total plotter. I usually start out with a character(s), then a title. Then I start an outline. Sort of like Maria, I know where I'm going, but I don't know how I'm going to get there until I start writing. Great minds think alike, no? :)

Maria Zannini said...

Yes, great minds. LOL!

In the very beginning, I was a pantser, but a friend of mine introduced me to outlining early on, and I've found it so much less stressful than my old way. I'm all for less stress. :o)