I was going to break down my process by what I use, but I realized that I use most of my tools at all stages of the writing process, so for now, I am going to go in a more chronological order for how I write.
The beginning of any writing process starts with the obvious: an idea. For me, an idea can be a character that pops into my head (this is a frequent occurrence), a setting, or even sometimes a scene that comes fully formed. If I’m smart (sadly, I am not always smart when it comes to story ideas), I write whatever it is down. OR, I have recently begun using a simple recording app on my phone if I am absolutely in a place or situation where I can’t write something down. With the WriteMinds, there’s a handy little Story sheet that I’ve begun to use.
Now, ideas can be a very odd thing. As I said above, ideas come in all varieties. Sometimes they are crystal clear and other times it’s like trying to peer into a murky lake to see what might be lurking on the bottom.
This is where I like to free write. Once I write down what my initial thoughts are, I give myself a bit of time to think and then just start writing. K.M. Weiland calls it ‘What ifs’ and that is definitely part of it, but I write down everything and anything I think of, even if I have no intention of using it. Sometimes, that kind of thing makes it’s way into another idea, or becomes a new idea all its own! Hm… that might explain why I am having the problem of not finishing anything! Too many ideas! Anyway, trying to record as much as you can is a good habit to get into.
Once I have a solid handle of the kind of story I want to tell, I start working on a premise statement. I don’t follow any kind of format for this part. I just do a sentence or two of the kind of story I want to write. Once I have that in mind, I tend to go in a couple of different directions, all depending upon what sparked the idea to begin with. If it was a character that popped into my head, I try to get to the know the character first. I do that by filling out a character checklist that I have from a book called “Fantasy Fiction Formula” by Deborah Chester (this is another great resource and highly recommended, though details will be a future post). I tend to tweak it as needed, either deleting or adding questions when I need them.
If it was a scene that popped into my head, I write it out, often taking notes as things about the world or characters occur to me in the margins (or as footnotes). If it was a vague idea, or a general premise, then I tend to have a bit more fun and just start free-writing. I may even jump around from character interviews/sheets to worldbuilding to planning out a few scenes.
I tend to go back and forth between my WriteMind Journal and Scrivener here. Sometimes, I just like to write long-hand and then transcribe it into Scrivener. This is especially true if I start this at work or when I’m out and about without my computer. Once it gets into Scrivener, I compile it and then print it out so I can put it into my WriteMind. Once I have the initial ideas down, I begin to flesh things out. Lately, after doing some important reading (especially ‘Structuring your Novel’ by KM Weiland), I try to look at some of the themes and the Dramatic Question (Deborah Chester calls it SPOOC) of the story in question. Once those are figured out, I again jump around to characters and more worldbuilding.
It’s often at that stage that subplots start to form and so they get noted down as well. One of the things I struggled with previously is how to outline without feeling as if I had trapped myself. The secret is in jumping around. Don’t feel you have to follow a linear plan or do it in just such a way; it took me a while not only to realize this, but to feel comfortable with it. I like my plans and knowing what to do when 😄 But this way seems to help spark a lot more creativity and it is all very much connected. While it makes sense to start with your initial idea and the premise, trying to complete just one thing before moving on is actually more limiting.
Once I have enough of an outline (and this tends to vary for each piece or project I’ve found), I sit down and start writing. I tend to prefer to do this part almost exclusively in Scrivener. I also use Scrivener to help plan scenes out. I don’t plan each scene out beforehand all the time. Some scenes don’t come to me until I’ve begun writing. One thing to keep in mind; just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. If you find a side-road to take, take it, see where it leads!
Welp, that’s the beginning part of my process. Next week, I’ll show you some of the things I do in Scrivener, both while Outlining and what I do during the actual writing process. See you then!