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What's your process?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Darkfantasy, Jun 2, 2016.

  1. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    More of a discussion for everyone than a question to help myself.

    But what is your personal process for writing your Fantasy book. When you get an idea you really like what's the first thing you do?
    Do you start by world-building, by marking out the events in your plot or do you create your characters first then build the world and story around them?

    I'm writing my first Fantasy book so haven't discovered my personal process yet. I used to write crime so for me the world-building is the newest part. I'd world build obviously but not to the extent I am for this book. At the moment I'm doing research and just getting inspiration for possible storyline/twists, things I feel haven't been explored much before.

    What about you guys?
  2. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I've no one process, it all depends. But for the one I'm on now, I started with an ending and went back in time to find the inciting event, then figured out who I wanted for an MC, and fleshed it out with personalities and major events. Then I connect these dots to write the story. Everything in between the dots tends to be pants on fire writing.

    Different stories, different processes. Others I have sitting on back burners started with inciting events or characters. But no matter where it starts, I want to know the ending. Until I have a powerful ending to write toward, I'm no longer going to start writing the story, LOL.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  3. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    Generally speaking, when I first get an idea I write down as much as I can about it. The plot, key characters, etc. Whatever I've got at the time. Then I let it sit. Occasionally, in idle moments, I'll come back to the idea. Develop things further, maybe some world-building happens in the back of my head. Key plot moments can pop up and be defined. I call this the incubation stage.

    Along comes a time when I'm ready to start on something new. I go back through all my little incubating stories and select the one I can see most clearly at the time - which isn't always the earliest idea. I want to know the beginning and the end of a story before I start on it. Both can change in the long run, but I want to know where I'm starting and where I'm going or else I'm likely to start writing in circles. Hopefully a few of the plot points along the way will be known as well, as well as a number of details about what makes this story world tick.

    When I actually write, I have nothing particularly different going on. Butt in chair, hand on keyboard, words on page. I almost always write linearly, and I tend to do a lot of fussing and re-writing before the first draft is done. By the time I actually finish a story I've already rewritten the start and middle quite a bit - this is a habit I'm trying to either discard or be able to turn off, but it's my natural style so I'm not sure if changing it will be all that successful.
    Lynea likes this.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I don't have a process; or, rather, I think the process I've used on my WIP stinks and am resolved to do better.

    I have looked at various templates, but they share a common problem: they assume I know what is going to happen. I don't. That is, I have dozens of possibilities knocking around in my head. My next story might happen in one century or another, in one country or another. It might involve drow, or not. All I really know is that the main character is a dwarf who gets caught up in a false prophecy and has to figure out who is lying and why, and how to stop them. I don't even know what they're lying about! But I do know the title is Tuck the Unchosen.

    How am I supposed to identify the "first pinch point" or where Act II begins, or how to word my one-paragraph summary when I have such huge unknowns? Do I have to let the story knock around in my head for a while yet? It's been doing that for a couple years now. I do make progress, but how much certitude is needed before the Snowflake Method, or whatever, becomes usable?

    I wish I knew. Fortunately, I still have miles to go on my current WIP, so I don't have to answer these questions just yet.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  5. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    It varies from book to book but I rarely ever outline. If I do, it's usually after I've started writing the draft.

    When I get an idea, I typically marinate on it for several days to weeks and spend that time writing a synopsis, just letting the story percolate. I work on more than one project at once so I'm always writing. Then one day, the new idea will be ready to take out of the oven. That's when I start with one sentence and create the story from there. It's an oftentimes messy, occasionally non-linear journey towards the end. I must always know the climax (not necessarily the ending though) before starting the draft. I also edit as I go along, doing cycles of editing before writing fresh prose for the day so in the end, I have a mostly edited document which goes through very little changes as I don't rewrite either.

    I'm a heathen.

    Basically, I let the creative juices take over and spread my writing time between 2-3 different projects at any given time. It takes me longer to finish books because of the juggling but eventually I do. :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2016
  6. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    I think usually it starts with a single mental image. From that image, I pull out a vague story thread. Then I start adding stuff, defining stuff more clearly, etc. until I have a rudimentary plot. Then I start building my characters, and then designing the world that fits the characters. As soon as I have enough to start writing, I start writing, changing stuff and adding stuff and deleting stuff as the story needs.
    evolution_rex and Darkfantasy like this.
  7. troynos

    troynos Minstrel

    I don't outline, I let things happen as they happen.

    The ideas start different ways. Some of come from a single scene and then shape the story around that scene. There could be a line of text that just sings to me and then build around that.

    I tend to write in scenes at first. Different moments pop up as the characters grow and interact and then I fill in around those scenes. For example, if I hold to my schedule of 2 Taleweaver's Song books a year, the 6th book (2018) has a scene of the various characters talking about war around the fire. It sounds simple, but this is pivotal for the young main character. So now I have to figure out how they got to that point and that specific instance.

    The story working on tonight started with an idea of wanting these specific characters together and just built from there. Why are they together, what brought them together, etc.. This one hasn't been in scenes, it's just been growing from the "what brought them together" question.
  8. Vincent Lakes

    Vincent Lakes Dreamer

    As I'm writing my first novel at the moment, it's difficult for me to define the process as it has been a lot of trying out things and learning through mistakes. I've been to it for two and a half years now, and the whole process, which may have been clear and structured in the beginning, has become a distorted and blurry mess. However, I hope to have it finished by the end of the year, and edited by the end of the next year. Yeah, I'm pretty bad with schedules, so I give myself a whole lot of leeway.

    Anyway, I began the work by creating some maps, writing short stories located in multiple parts and timelines, thus documenting parts of important history as well. When I felt there was enough, I compiled a crude roadmap for the story and filled in the blanks as I went by adding some interesting curves with subplots. I like to use the same characters I've already introduced in the short stories, so there was a good, solid background existing for most of them before I even had the first chapter finished.

    The path I'm walking has taken me six years now, and although there is an end in sight, it's fickle to say the least. I can't really recommend my method as it's all about lacking a clear way. Despite all twists and adversities, I have learned a lot, and I'm pretty sure that if I ever make it to the second novel, I will be doing things quite differently.
  9. Pendragon

    Pendragon New Member

    A couple of years ago I had an idea for a story, I wrote a few pages of notes and then shelved it. How could I actually turn these few ideas into a full blown novel! Lack of confidence in my ability was my downfall. Last year the ideas came back to me and I just had a surge of self-confidence and thought why can't I write a full novel!
    I started throwing ideas down, usually in notes on my phone each morning out walking the dog before work. I also had several attempts at writing it from the start but just kept scraping what I had done. I sought some advice from a fellow writer and purchased several writing help books and I stumbled upon one called, 'Structuring your novel' by K.M.Weiland. I haven't read it all yet but just the first section has proven to be a valuable asset in taking my writing a step further along the path to completion.
    I followed the advice to hand write the whole storyline first. Two notebooks later I had something to work with. This approach seemed to work for me as it gave me a chance to just throw all the initial ideas down and not worry about keep deleting or correcting things, a very creative process. Alongside this, I have started a sketchbook that I use to explore ideas like weapons, language, animals, flora and fauna, clothing, how the world was created etc etc!
    Now I am finally at the stage of transferring the handwritten notes onto my laptop using a writing program called Scrivener. This will be my first draft and I'm currently on chapter seven but haven't been very disciplined in finding time to dedicate to taking it further but this will happen soon! I plan to write the whole first draft and at the same time lay down some notes on history, characters etc. Then I intend to use the split screen mode in Scrivener to refine the first draft into hopefully what will be something approaching a final draft!
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  10. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    When I have an idea I love I first expand on the main theme. I think of major plot points for the story and create the main and secondary characters. I like to create a table where I can describe my characters and the settings for places. Next I make an outline of as many chapters that come to mind. In each chapter there's at least one significant event. For a fantasy world I always have a map. The map helps me to precisely know where locations are and give estimates for how long it takes to travel from one place to another.

    I see writing a story like going on a road trip. I need to know where I'm (or my characters) are starting, where they will end up and some things they will do during the trip. I like to know the major events of my story, but the times between or what happens while the characters go from one location to another are written in the moment. Writing this way for me prevents writer's block. As you said find what works for you and keep the writing fun.
    Pendragon likes this.
  11. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

    I started by creating a magic system. I plotted country locations by considering how the discovery of this magic would affect city locations and interaction between countries.

    After fleshing out the world history and geography I considered who I'd most like to write about and settled on a family as I thought I'd enjoy the challenge of multiple character arcs. I laid out notable traits of each family member, placed them in a difficult situation and let it play out.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  12. Entrisen

    Entrisen Dreamer

    Typically when I write a novel it simply starts with the first draft. Maybe I'll write notes here and there before I begin but I usually don't do any outline because I feel it blocks me from writing as freely as id like. This is for the first draft only. It usually comes after I get really excited about any idea and the words just flow. Once I start writing and my characters are on this journey, sometimes I don't know quite where they will end up because once I start writing that first draft things just happen! And that's where a lot of my good ideas come from. I get the story on paper from beginning to what I feel is the end, and I put it away for a couple of weeks to think it over. I'll go back and Re read it, and start editing it and cutting it up until I have most of the good ideas in one and have cut out the awful. Then I have a clear direction of the novel, and I begin the second draft which is much more structured and better written. My favorite part of writing is always the first draft, letting my imagination run wild even if the story is going way off or if it's looking awful. That's the point of a first draft! In my opinion At least.
  13. Velka

    Velka Sage

    I almost always start with a character in a situation. From there I daydream about how they got in that situation, and what they're going to do (or not do) in response. From there new shoots grow into something story-ish.

    I used to just 100% wing it from there, and while that has lead to some wonderful words, it's also lead me down many garden paths that end in a giant plot hole with no pylons around it to give warning.

    Now I would say I'm 50% gardener and 50% architect. I do some research on the things I really need to have some idea about and I plan my characters, the main ABCs of the plot and how it's going to end. I think of it as having a map to where I'm going drawn on the back of a cocktail napkin as opposed to using GPS. This way I'm free to take a wrong, but more interesting turn, where the story leads me without having an insistent British voice constantly telling me to take the next left in 300 metres.

    I usually write in a linear fashion. Start at a good-enough beginning, then write what happens next. Although there are times I reward myself after getting through an especially tough bit and give myself permission to write a scene that happens much later, but that I'm really excited about.

    I'm not the best at balance in my life, and I tend to swing between an "all or nothing" view when it comes to writing. I wrote close to nothing the entire month of May because I had a tonne of very important adult responsibilities and commitments and I couldn't bear the thought of only working on a project for an hour here and there. Hence not completing my Top Scribe story or beginning work on a new WIP that is all sketched out on the back of a cocktail napkin and just begging to be written. All I managed to accomplish was some editing on my second draft. I'm still trying to work out that part of the process.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I'm envious, Entrisen. When I start into a novel like that, I wind up with the story going in a dozen directions rather than in just one. Even when I know the ending (this is the case with Goblins at the Gates) I wind up with a tangled network of paths all leading to it. Every time I cut one of those paths, or modify it, the act has effects on all the other paths, so the way forward is constantly changing under my feet. There simply is no clear first draft that I can then sit down and restructure. I would love to be able just to write a draft the way you describe.
  15. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

    I started with the characters first, not intentionally but these have been in my head for a while. Attached to these were loose story lines and plots but these have changed drastically since my first concept.

    Then after I had the characters I jotted out a rough timeline of the entire story, which covers several books. After that I tried to put in the boundaries for where one book would end and another would begin. Then I reworked the story so that each book built up to a climax and had some big event at the end.

    Starting with the first book I knew how it would begin, and then I worked out the climax in detail, which allowed me to identify the details that I need to have somewhere in the story for the climax to work. Then I made notes of these important things and put them in a rough timeline that I need to cover in the story.

    This gave me a very brief outline, where I knew what the end goal of each chapter and roughly where they were and exactly who was there. Then I didn't bother to flesh it out much more I just dove into writing, and that's where I am now, I will see what ideas I have as I go. My outline is vague enough that I can see where the story takes me to some degree.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2016
  16. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    It usually starts with coming up with a concept for the protagonist. After that I come up with the basic idea of the story and what happens and figure out an ending that works. Then I come up with the main plot points that have to happen so that I can connect the logical dots later on.
  17. Malik

    Malik Auror


    Edit: Plus coffee, Advil, and Scotch.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2016
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  18. Fluffypoodel

    Fluffypoodel Inkling

    The story i'm working on now started with just two names. This was about ten years or so ago. I've tried writing it about as many times during those years but it never really felt right with me. Other ideas came and went and the first manuscript I wrote had nothing to do with that story. but it was always there, stewing under some rock or another, waiting for me to be able to write it.

    After I finished that first novel I put it aside to stew and looked for the next thing to write. I had learned a lot and was much more confident in my ability to finish something that I started so I gave it another shot, not knowing where it would take me. I wrote the first scene and didn't hate it, then the first chapter, then the second and the third and in about nine months I had another completed draft on my hands. I don't know if it was because I had been sitting on the idea for so long or maybe My confidence was just higher but it was an incredible feeling to know that scenes I had been envisioning for ten years were finally on paper and I didn't completely hate them.

    Not sure if that will happen every time but it worked this time.
  19. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    My process on my current WIP has been like this:

    1. I had that spark of imagination, I got a glimpse of a vision. I don't know how it works for everyone else, but for me the first idea always comes from an image I create in my head. I think about it some more, and then simply describe that image on paper.

    2. I began listing general ideas I want to explore that could fit into the story. Not everything will work and I often reuse ideas from past unfinished works or ideas that didn't work out for previous projects.

    3. I try to piece together a plot. It can be vague but I have to get the beginning, middle, and end down. This is a challenging phase.

    4. I write a full timeline of events.

    5. I then go into detail about the characters, giving them names and traits. I also write notes on the setting and the story's symbolism.

    6. I rewrite the timeline, this time in a ton of detail.

    7. This is a dialogue draft. Paragraphs are vague placeholders and instead focus on the dialogue.

    8. This is the paragraph draft and the 'first draft'. No matter how hard I work on this draft, it'll feel awful.

    9. Long break. This is the stage I'm currently on. I won't be returning to my story until next month.

    10. Second draft, third draft, etc until I get it right.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2016
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