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I was just wondering about what the process is for some; if anyone ever tried to work backwards from a certain area of their story that they just felt should be there. Does anybody write with slots reserved in the back of their minds until the opportunity arises to flesh out the idea? Any aspect you feel the need to have in your story even though you don’t have much plans for it yet? For example: not every single book out there has a villain, or at least a very obvious one, but it is a popular idea. And how do they enter into your writing? Did you just make them have the opposite intentions to the hero and then continue to flesh them out until they actually had some good motives?
What about other patterns? For some reason, ages ago, when I decided to actually sit down and finally get more than a couple of loose chapters done, what was going through my head was: create hero, then introduce villain, then flesh out motives, enter conflict, introduce solutions, more conflict, resolve. I didn’t exactly make a bullet list before setting out to write the story, but now that I think about it, there was some kind of formula at the back of my mind the whole time.
I don’t suppose it’s an entirely bad thing as some kind of structure can allow for events to follow in some sort of logical order and your story can actually make sense to the reader; so a formula is great for that. But can it go beyond that and impact your writing negatively? Maybe it’ll have you wasting time on an event that you can’t really flesh out, but feel the need to because it just feels like it should be there?
Perhaps it is a bad approach to set out solid blocks and then fill them up as you go along, but do you find yourself doing that far too often anyway?
This is just the way I write, period.
I always hit out a first chapter basically following the muse. I let that first chapter sit, and then what I get after that is just a series of unconnected images, dialogue, and incidents. The whole fun of the writing is getting to those preconceived cool moments, and firming up the sections between them. I always know what I want the end to look like first, and have that in mind the whole way.
The benefits are that it’s fun, first off (for me anyhow), it helps to keep the story unified and tense all the way through, and it makes it easier to get large amounts of writing done, as you’re working toward spaced-out goals.
The one big drawback is the infamous That One Scene problem, where you get a really cool idea fixed in your head, and then by the time you reach its spot in the narrative, it no longer fits cleanly into the thread of the story and character development. You have to learn to just shelve those ideas for another day instead of stuffing them in where they don’t fit.
Really I think this is just one method out of many, though, and varies by the individual. Myself, I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. That’s just how writing happens. But I can see how it wouldn’t work for others.
EDIT: Also, I don’t really find myself wasting time on preconceived scenes, to answer that question. For me the whole fun of doing them is that the phrasing and dialogue is largely finished, so I get a nice smooth fast flow for eight hundred to a thousand words or so. I like banging them out and getting them done, because I feel like I’ve accomplished something and because I often get new ideas as I’m setting those chunks down.
Truthfully, I tend to write in outlines. Simply because I tend to rely on plot twists and I have to set up my plot before I can twist it. I usually have a few scenes that are mostly unconnected in my head before I write, but it isn’t until I sit and stare at the scene for a while that I actually get anything done. I usually work out basic world, plot, characters and conflicts before I plot it all together though.
So, I know why the main character hates the antagonist, and I know what the antagonist is after, and I know that basic situation that gets the ball rolling, but beyond that I have to plot things out.
For a while I tried to write without an outline and go straight through the story and I ended up about fifteen pages in, staring at the screen, not sure what to do next. Since I wasn’t sure where I was going outside of the basic idea, I never could move very far. That’s why I like outlines. If I know what I’m doing, I can either work from that, inspiration or not, or just go to a scene that I know I’ve got in my head and connect the two later.
I should probably say that when I say ‘outline’ I mean a basic list of what I want the plot to do. It’s pretty vague and easily fleshed out while I write. I tend to come up with good ideas when I’m in the middle of a scene. I’m well aware that this isn’t the most popular method for people. I know one girl who says that it’s restrictive, but that’s just me. I’m a bit of a control freak, and unless I can plot out every major point, I tend to get bored and move on to another idea.
The one real downside I’ve seen to it is when you plot it out and than you think that what you’ve plotted out is stupid and pointless. It can be…disheartening.
Of late, it’s true that certain instances have appeared to me without any hint of how the characters ended up there. It’s fun to think about, but on the other hand, there’s something very organic about going in order…things might make more sense.
I don’t really have a writing process so much as a lack of one? At least, when it comes to fiction. I love my outlines when writing nonfiction. Outlines kill my motivation to write fiction though.
So it’s not uncommon for me to write a scene that just comes out of nowhere, then write a bit that comes way before it, then another bit that comes way after it, and then some unrelated bit, then somehow bring everything all together and fill in the gaps, and somehow it winds up being a coherent and cohesive piece. If I ever finish it.
I have story commitment issues. >.>
Good thing I’m not planning to make a living off of writing. XD
but on the other hand, there’s something very organic about going in order…things might make more sense.
but on the other hand, there’s something very organic about going in order…things might make more sense.
Well, I think an outline is just fine. For sure, that would help make everything go in order, but it still might be a bad idea to have a check list. Sometimes I’ve tried to force into my writing things that don’t really belong there, but made the attempt anyway because I felt that’d be one more thing out of the way. One thing that wouldn’t go away: introduce someone with troubled past. That really wasn’t necessary to the story, but it kept nagging at me to get it in at some point because I knew some kind of huge reveal would just be plain interesting. That’s why I’ve been trying to do away with them. It’s hard when you see what works for so many other books. Taking whatever opportunity you can to have some tension is tempting, but it’s messed up some things for me far too many times. And wasted a heck of a lot of time.
If I have a method, I guess it is typically that I have an idea for a climax and general ideas for the plot (mostly character arcs, but also “milestones” that I want to hit along the way to the climax). Everything in between can change drastically, and often does, if my NaNo work is any indication! If I do have an outline, I don’t usually stick to it, although I do find a very general one useful for reminding me of what I’m trying to work toward.
For short stories, I guess I tend to do the same thing, only on a more compressed scale. I have a starting part and a climax I want to reach. Then I just start going from the beginning and try to work it around to the end. As an example, in the last story I did for my creative writing class, I knew how I wanted it to start (a girl talking about her grandmother’s crazy stories about fairies), a milestone or two along the way (the grandmother dies, the girl has a run-in with fairies as a result), and how it was going to end (the girl discovers her mother might believe in fairies too). And I was actually able to stick to that. But things in-between were less planned.
I find I don’t do well without some direction; my writing tends to meander around not going anywhere every time I’m not sure what I want to do next. So having big milestones gives me something to work toward. And if in working toward one milestone, I end up shooting off in some other direction and setting a completely different milestone, that’s completely fine. I usually don’t end up changing the actual climax, though, just the way the protagonists get there.
All the short stories I’ve written have been done mostly by having a vague destination in mind and feeling my way through on instinct. It’s mostly worked well, at least in the Poe-style “unity of effect” sense.
For my way too long novel? I started out with the rough story in mind, a bunch of the major characters, and lots of specific scenes I wanted to work in. After about two horrible chapters of the horrible first draft I decided I needed a concrete outline, so I made a chapter-by-chapter one, and figured it’d keep me on the rails.
It did, somewhat. I still found room for most of the scenes I wanted, but a lot of the connective tissue ended up looking way different than what I’d intended. Most of the time it was because I felt like I needed to do something different to arrive at point B from point A than I’d originally assumed, but at least one major change came because I got to a place where I just didn’t want to write another training chapter and said “FUCK THIS NOISE, let’s fight a hundred ninjas instead.”
As far as order goes, I wrote the first draft chronologically and that’s how I’ve done the subsequent rewrites. I can’t really jump around and write or rewrite random scenes without feeling disconnected and outside the flow. I imagine once I get closer to being “finished” I’ll probably start reworking individual scenes, especially when I want to establish parallels and plant information and symbology and that kind of shit.
So, I was going to try and figure out how the hell to explain my writing process, but KYLLORAC, YOU ARE THE BEST. Except it’s true for both fiction AND nonfiction for me. Outlines… heh. They do not help.
Willow! My writing soulmate!
Well, I write my nonfiction out of order, too; it’s just that I plan the final order beforehand via outline. XD My typical essay writing goes conclusion, paragraph on first main topic, intro paragraph, second-last body paragraph, spiffy up conclusion, finish body. I tend to ramble otherwise. I guess my brain likes going, “Okay, this is where we want to end up. Now, to BS our way there skillfully…”
Writing things in order is so overrated.
P.S. Do you need to revise a lot? I find I generally don’t, except for longer works (like novels).
Yeah, I do minimal editing for my writing. Generally for typos, or for when, once in a while, I lose my point halfway through a paragraph and have to edit it back in. Whoops.
Writing soulmate high five
I edit. A LOT.
(I mean I would, theoretically, if I actually did stuff.)
I nearly always start with a scene and flesh out the rest of the story around it. The scene will change many, many times throughout the writing process, but what I end up with is better than what I started with. But the original version will usually have all of the characters I want to use in the story, or involve them in some way.
When it comes to writing, though, I’ll start at the beginning and not write the scene-that-started-it-all until I actually come to it. Sort of saving the best for last, I suppose.
I heard Smeyer worked backwards from the terrible sparklemeadow™ scene to write Twilight, so it must work for bestselling authors…
Personally, I just try to bang out the story from start to finish, then go back and edit it later. If I do write scenes involving the characters and try working backwards I can never quite make them fit properly. A rough idea helps but I’ve found I can never stick to outlines.