For me the writing process begins with a simple idea or a thought that catches me off guard. Every now and then these ideas just come to me out of nowhere, completely unprompted and just right there at a moment’s notice. More often than not, however, something in the world around me triggers a story idea that I otherwise wouldn’t have come up with on my own. It can be something as simple as a place I have visited, other times it is brought on by a person or an emotion evoked from a situation. I’ve written several stories before, including two full length novels, after experiencing a sudden and devastating loss in my life. While I tend to write best (in my opinion) based off of actual experiences, I think I prefer those stories that just came on suddenly and take shape all on their own. They feel like things I’ve worked that little bit harder for, if that makes any sense at all.
It’s everything that comes after the initial idea that requires all the work and effort. I used to try and be the type of writer who gets an idea, sits down, and just starts writing without anything to go on. After a while though my story would be all over the place with no real direction to lead the way, and that would result in frustration and a lot of unfinished pieces. It took me a couple of years to figure out that I’m just never going to be that kind of writer and that it’s okay. Everyone is different, and I just had to find a way of doing things that worked for me.
After I get that first glimpse of a story idea, I write it down. If I don’t write it down I’ll forget it promptly, which is what I absolutely don’t want to do. I keep two different notebooks with me at all times, and a pen on hand too. The smaller notebook is for “jotting”, which is just where I pen down the quick flashes of ideas, thoughts, or lines that help me piece together the puzzle. The larger notebook is for “plotting”, where I start to layout the stories bare bones and what steps I need to get to in order for it to be worthy of publication. It can be a little bit overwhelming when I first begin, but all those steps and details also keep me motivated to get to the end, which is what I’m always trying to do.
Once I have the basics down, I start the oftentimes grueling process of doing a layout for the story. It’s here that I start to create the characters and the location(s), because those are my preferred jumping-off point. I can’t put the characters into situations just yet, because I have to first know who they are. I think about the story I want to tell, what the context is, and go from there. I give them names, ages, places of birth, backstory information that might come in handy later, and what they look like in my head so I know who I’m writing about. Location is a huge thing for me too, I often shape the entire story around a central location, so getting to know the main setting is very important to me. It seems like a lot at the time, especially when I don’t know much of anything else about the story yet, but it’s what I need to get going.
From there I consider how long I want the story to be, or at least what my end goal is as far as word count goes. I don’t always reach the desired word count, and other times I exceed it (which is rare, I won’t even lie), but it’s another motivating factor for me. Once I kind of have any idea of the scope of what I’m trying to write I put together a layout of each chapter as a sort of guide to get me to the climax of the story. This takes a considerable amount of time usually, and if it’s a story that requires historical or accurate real-world context it can take even longer. This is also the point where I do my research on things that will be included in the story, and flesh out the characters and the place a little bit more. It is also almost a given that at some point in the story I will deviate some from the layout I created, by thinking of things I want to include or how I want to flesh out this plot point or that scene there. When that happens it’s perfectly okay, it doesn’t throw me off at all, I just have to watch myself and make sure I’m not straying too far from the storyline I want to convey.
I’m one of those people who can knock out the first draft fairly quickly if it’s a story that I’m totally immersed in. It’s the rest of it that gets me big time. I’m not a good self-editor, and I have a hard time picking up on my own flaws. I have friends who thankfully beta-read/edit/critique for me and me for them, so that works out pretty well. It’s just all the tedious stuff that comes with working a first draft into a properly good novel that gets me big time, but I try my best!
Everyone has a different writing process, and I think they’re all pretty fascinating! What’s your process like? Did you go through a lot of trial and error before figuring out what works best for you? Let me know!
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