September 20, 2020, 12:21:35 PM

Author Topic: The first words... How to start...How to plan?  (Read 6359 times)

Offline tebakutis

  • Falsely Puffed Up Rascal Pig and Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Master Namer
  • ******
  • Posts: 2445
  • Total likes: 1760
  • Gender: Male
Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2013, 06:02:50 PM »
There's an immense amount of good advice here, so I can't add much. There is one bit I'd suggest, though:

I'm eager to start writing those moments, but grow weary writing the sections before the thrill, or the advancement of the plot.

Don't feel like you need to write everything preceding a scene before you write a cool scene that pops into your head. Everyone who has mentioned that your first draft will dramatically change over time is correct. If you have a strong urge to write something, write it while you have that urge, no matter where it will eventually occur in your book.

Don't worry about what comes first. The scene you write will change dramatically in revision anyway. Get it on paper with all the cool bits that have inspired you. In the worst case, you'll have a writing exercise that will help develop your characters in your own mind. In the best, you'll write a great scene that makes it into your final draft.

Another benefit? Writing scenes out of order lets you plan your foreshadowing. If you know that your book is going to build to a massive, awesome climax, and you know what that climax is ahead of time, sprinkle in foreshadowing throughout in the previous sections.

Then, when the reader gets there, they'll realize they saw it was coming all along.

Offline Dan D Jones

Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2013, 09:03:16 PM »
Very few writers get every sentence right the first time.

Get every sentence right?  I don't know if I get ANY sentence right the first time.  I'd guess that the percentage of sentences that make it from the first draft to the final product unaltered would be in the single digits.

Offline Jaedia

Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2013, 12:47:23 AM »
If you find it too frustrating, you might want to try writing a few short stories instead. That way you get the satisfaction of finishing a project without having to spend months or years (I'm not kidding!) on it. Short stories won't teach you how to write a novel, but they might help you with improving your prose.

Agonizing over every word slows you down, and your first draft (your vomit draft, a term which pleases me) never has to be perfect. It doesn't suit everyone, but I would recommend giving National Novel Writing Month a go - 50,000 words in a month, no editing, no excuses. It really helped me when I first started writing: it taught me discipline, and the courage to embrace a draft with lots of lovely mistakes.

My new philosophy is simple: Write the story, THEN tell it!

My favourite pieces of advice in this thread! I've decided to start with a short story as well once I've done my worldbuilding and vague outline of the plot. I want to explore where one of my characters came from and also my writing voice before I start on my main WiP.

NaNoWriMo taught me to stop agonising over every tiny detail and stressing about how bad at writing I am and just do it. Eventually I will actually do it and improve on the bad at writing part, though blogging has also helped me to develop a few writerly ways such as how to talk to an audience. Sure, it'll be different in fiction writing, but there are still things to take away from blogging.

Offline Francis Knight

Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2013, 01:28:50 AM »
Writ the first words with the assumption you will find better ones later

Because you will - even if you plan, words will come you did not expect.  Words, ideas,characters. You may find you delete that first chapter and you spent all that time...

Write the story

Then make it right (and be aware it will NEVER EVER be the same as in your head)

If you are a planner at heart, plan. If not don't . And try it the other way anyway, just in case,

Bu in ALL cases, write. You cannot edit a blank page. So however, write that page.

My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.

Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

Offline Elfy

  • Writing contest regular
  • Powers That Be
  • Big Wee Hag
  • *
  • Posts: 7377
  • Total likes: 818
  • Gender: Male
    • Purple Dove House
Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2013, 04:40:14 AM »
I think we all work differently. Some people like to do detailed outlines before they start, others are what they call pantsers (that's me, I'm a pantser), because they write by the seat of their pants. Stephen King is a pantser, he refers to outliners as frustrated college lecturers. George Martin is to a certain extent a pantser, although he'd have to outline to some extent with something like ASoIaF, although I was at a reading he did at Worldcon in 2010 and described the writing of his epic as being like driving from Melbourne to Perth (basically one side of the country the other) with a basic map and not much else. You know where you want to get, but you're going to hit some unforeseen obstacles on the way. Some people write from start to finish, others write bits of the story and then fill in the blanks later. As you write I think you'll find what best suits you. That not only goes for how you write that can even happen with what sort of genre you best fit into.
I will expand your TBR pile.

Offline Yuan François

  • Godling
  • **
  • Posts: 262
  • Total likes: 0
  • Gender: Male
  • Love is a sweet poison, but it kills nevertheless.
Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #20 on: July 09, 2013, 05:09:36 AM »
You guys have all been of great help.  :D
"It seems to me most strange that men should fear; Seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come."
-Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

Offline ZRWilliams

Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2013, 07:02:19 PM »
Very few writers get every sentence right the first time. I know I don't! The good news is that it gets better with practice, but right now you need to heed the words of podcaster Mur Lafferty: "You are allowed to suck".

I feel I have to echo this notion. When you hear from many professional story tellers, I daresay most, their first novels were just plain terrible. I know mine was. I have heard Pat Rothfuss refer to a terrible novel he wrote in high school and Dan Wells basically say that a writer's first novel generally belongs in the garbage. That isn't to dishearten you but it's true, you are allowed to suck. There are lessons to be learned in starting and finishing your novel that cannot be learned any other way. While it is nice to have these nice clean definitions of characterization, plot, dialogue, world building and so on, it isn't that clean when writing. For me, after reading for my whole life, going to writing retreats, outlining story after story and writing six full length novels, nothing beats sitting down and doing it while at the same time understanding that it will not be perfect.
Each hour wounds. The last hour kills.
Neil Gaiman-- "American Gods"

Offline HAnthe

Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #22 on: July 21, 2013, 05:38:58 PM »
I agree with everyone here, but I'd like to add a few things that helped me.

1) The concept of placeholder-text.

Early on, I agonized over every scene, every conversation, even the little stuff I call 'interstitial' writing that stitches together some of the larger passages but doesn't mean much on its own.  It all had to be perfect, it all had to fit in -- even though I had no idea how.

When I started editing it, I realized that left me with entire sections that felt important but no longer had any relevance to the story.  The ideas I'd pushed into them hadn't carried through to the end, even though I'd spent a long time wrestling with them in their spots.

I realized then that there are some parts of a story you don't know the relevance of until you write the ending.  There are some dialogues that can't be written properly until you see what they're foreshadowing.  So now, in my early drafts, whenever I catch myself going 'I need this interstitial scene but I don't know what should be happening in it', I rough something out and make a note to myself that I need to get back to it -- once I've figured out its importance.

I'm not saying 'just put an [insert meaning here] box in the text' -- definitely write out a scene.  You never know what you'll discover from trying to write out an idea.  But if it doesn't fit what you think you need, but you can't figure out what you do need, don't stress too much.  Just move on, keep it in the back of your mind, and nail it down later.

Honestly for the first draft or so (or even longer), I consider the entire text to be a placeholder for the story that will eventually be there.  I'm rough-drafting the third book in my series now, and it's dragging on me because I'm muddling through the middle and trying to hit a few plot points but feeling like nothing is right.  But the problem is more that it's not right...yet.  Putting the initial ideas down is just the first step; tweaking, refining, adjusting and rewriting them is the real work that makes an intelligible book.

As for the editing process:

2) The parallel rewrite.

I don't know if anyone else does this.  I had been writing my first book so long that it was a Frankenstein's monster of edits, and there's something about staring at an already-written page that makes me feel like I'm trapped in a paint-by-numbers set, trying not to scribble outside the lines.  You can only change so much without having to change everything else around it to adapt, and suddenly it's a Gordian knot of text.  You can tug at all the surface strands but it won't fix the problem.

In desperation, I opened a new file alongside the old one and started rewriting the book from the beginning.  And I found that using the old draft as reference but never ever copy/pasting from it helped me to identify what was important and what was extraneous, smooth out all the passages that had gotten tangled from their edits, change things that had been too entrenched in their sections previously, and generally improve the tone and flow.  Reading through and retyping the whole thing lent it a consistency that it had lost over the endless rewriting stages, and let me identify 'placeholder' sections that I could then fix as I went.

So that's my advice.  Visual artists do roughs too -- pencil sketches, that blue pencil stuff, et cetera -- so think of your first draft like that.  You're just describing the shape of the story, seeing how you can translate the anatomy in your head to the physicality of the page.  What you see in your mind will never entirely fit there, so the first draft is essential to seeing what you need to show and what you can't...and then rewriting to make it so.

At least that's what works for me.

Offline EricaDakin

Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #23 on: July 21, 2013, 07:17:04 PM »
I agree with everyone here, but I'd like to add a few things that helped me.

2) The parallel rewrite.

Best advice you ever gave me (and you gave me a lot!). ;)
Butterflies instantly came to life in his stomach, and the little bastards were heavily armed. - The Republic of Thieves.

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #24 on: December 01, 2015, 03:19:49 AM »
I'm stumbling on to this thread way after it first started. I don't even recognize the names here, except one.
But this was really helpful. One reason I don't write for a hobby is that I'm a perfectionist. I want to get it right the first time around. I know that's impossible, and I'm perfectly willing to edit. But I always go back and fix sentences.
Another thing. I want to write something original. This is something I just need to get over. But when I read all these amazing books, it's hard not to compare yourself and easy to start thinking that you'll never get that good. Of course, I never will if I don't start trying.
Also, I tend to struggle with something that's hitting me at this very moment. I have ideas. I have lots of ideas. But I have no idea where I'm going with them.
I know cool things I want to do. I have ideas on where I would like to take them. But nothing that resembles an ending. This is a problem. I need to write a short story for my English class tomorrow, and it's bothering to the point that I'm considering recycling something I wrote a couple months ago. I know I can't do this, because it will look edited. I think. Again, I have an idea of what I want to base the story on, but I have no solution to the conflict. I want to throw something presentable to the teacher.
I guess I just need to start writing it and see where it goes. I can always write the apology EMail and explain that I was just going off of a unpolished idea.
We shall see how things turn out. Maybe my writer's block will clear by tomorrow afternoon.

Offline JMack

  • Hircum Magna Rex of the Fabled Atku Temple, and writing contest regular
  • Writing Group
  • Big Wee Hag
  • ******
  • Posts: 7195
  • Total likes: 4895
  • Gender: Male
  • Our daily efforts are love poems to the universe.
    • Tales of Starlit Lands
Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #25 on: December 01, 2015, 03:39:14 AM »
Heyb@ultamentkiller, the December story contest will start tomorrow!
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)


  • Guest
Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #26 on: December 02, 2015, 10:50:09 AM »
Basically, in order to write a novel, you will have to defeat your perfectionist tendencies.  Perfectionism is an asset in many areas, but not in long-form fiction.

When writing the first draft – absolutely. But for working on later drafts, not so much. That's when a certain amount of perfectionism comes in.

Offline Barbara J Webb

Re: The first words... How to start...How to plan?
« Reply #27 on: December 02, 2015, 09:05:56 PM »
The good news--as a young writer, you have the most valuable resource of all. Time! Time to learn, time to read, time to practice.

In the beginning, it's important not to get too hung up on craft. Just write. If I had one piece of advice to give to my younger self, it would be to take the time to play, to experiment, to figure out what I REALLY love. The passion that actually drives the words. And then never let go of that.

It's so easy to get overwhelmed by technique. And, yes, it's important to learn to write well. But that's a slow process, and a lot of growth will come naturally as you read books you enjoy, as you write write write your own stuff, and as you pick up any of the piles and piles of writing how-tos out there.

Learn to read critically, but to write joyfully. Never critique your own first draft as you're writing it. As others have mentioned, editing is where the perfectionism gets to come out to play. When you're first getting the words down, do what's fun! An energetic, passionate, draft can be edited into a good story. A flat, technically perfect draft is going to be a challenge to turn into something that readers respond to.

The art of writing is to ultimately say, "Look at this thing! Isn't it awesome? Come be as excited about it as I am!"

(All one writer's opinion, of course. YMMV.)
Breaking the world one character at a time.