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Author Topic: Sharing Your Writing Process  (Read 6642 times)

Offline m3mnoch

Sharing Your Writing Process
« on: August 30, 2015, 10:56:24 PM »
a couple things got me thinking about sharing my writing process.

1) from stuff i've gleaned from the writing corner, it seems like we've all got very different writing processes, very different definitions of outlining, very different ideas of a first draft.

2) i am a total voyeur when it comes to other people's content pipelines.  in the past, this has been mostly in game development, but since i've been writing more, it's shifted towards word creation.  i love seeing how other people work and write!  i'm hoping other folks will offer up theirs in more detail.

i've found a few places in the forums where folks are talking about different crafting aspects beyond just plotters and pantsers:
http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/your-work-process/ (i almost revived this thread, but it's sooooo old...)
http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/revision-sweeps/
http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/pantser-vs-plotter-which-are-you/

i've even contributed a bit already:
http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/are-you-an-explorer-or-an-architect/msg105292/#msg105292


anyhow, it got me thinking about sharing mine in more detail.  with examples even!


i'll start with the simpler one -- short stories.

basically, after writing a half-dozen or ten over the last three months for various contest entries and whatnot, i've really boiled the process down.

first, i'll draw up a combo notes-outline thing that loosely correlates to this 8-part story arc:

1 - Stasis
2 - Trigger
3 - The quest
4 - Surprise
5 - Critical choice
6 - Climax
7 - Reversal
8 - Resolution

obviously, it's loose since we've only got a limited budget for words with short stories.  (some more than others!)  so, i'll pick a key moment or two, and then interpolate out from there until i have notes for most of the segments of the arc.

as an example, here's what i plotted out for this month's space opera story:
Spoiler for Hiden:

## Everyone Loves a Scoundrel

[world class scoundrel in a bar.]

[pov of the scoundrel.]

[talking to patron next to him.]

[patron is like a kid in the candy store sitting next to a famous outlaw.]

[bad guys try to rob the place. really a horrific thing with a hologram disguise. it’s a INSERT-CREATURE-NAME-HERE, impervious to blasters, big, strong, a wrecking machine.]

[says something witty]

[pew! pew! scoundrel saves everyone. he new the specific weakness of the thing. a dog-whistle like thing he uses to call his wombat.]

[“yeah, ran into them on zenos-4. discovered that the hard way.” points to the gnarly scar on his cheek.]

[we love this guy!]

[patron next to him turns out to be a bounty hunter. is going to shoot him in the back.]

[“after seeing you dispatch that thing, there was no way i was going to try and subdue you. sorry."]

[wombat swoops in and knocks the blaster away.]

[scoundrel turns slowly. he’s pissed. more wit!]


if you've read the story, it's kinda-sorta close, right?  once i have the general feel of it sketched out, i'll then pants my way through the actual prose.

now, for my novel.

it's been a bit different but i feel like it's working.  my first two chapters were pretty awful.  then, i rewrote the first one using a heftier outline.  it was better, but still bad.  then, i tweaked and tacked my process to rewrite the second chapter.  again, better but not quite there.  one more tack and then chapter three -- now i'm where i feel like i've got the right writing process going.  it feels like it's all about execution now.

so, i'm rewriting both of the first two chapters with the newest iteration of my process -- it's basically where i landed for my smoother, more sane chapter three.  feels like it gets my first draft for each chapter pretty squared away.

this is the process i've landed on.

first, i take the chunk out of my giant outline i've put together for that scene/chapter in order to help keep the story on track.  the giant outline is effectively fully broken down and follows the same 8-point story arc formula.

as a more detailed example, here's how the process rolled out for chapter four.  (if you're honestly interested in reading the previous chapters, holler and i'll point you to them)

the outline chunk for chapter four:
Spoiler for Hiden:

Scene Four
Amon confronts Cyriac about a Sush conspiracy to destroy Mantisarr land and accidentally kills him
Trigger

Requirements
Perspective: Amon
Dialog:
  • Amon and Thred
  • Amon and Cyriac
Conflict: Cyriac vs. Amon
Foreshadowing: Cyriac and Warin REDACTED with the Sush. Amon is trying to start a war. Thred is REDACTED.
Surprise: Amon freaks out, kills Cyriac.
Button: He's going to frame Warin.

Acts
Setup:
How far out is the Edos estate? Why are Amon and Thred paying him a visit? What does the estate look like? Where is Cyriac's estate in the duchy?

Conflict:
Why are there no servants or guards? Why does Cyriac dislike Amon? Why does Amon flip out and tackle Cyriac so quickly?

Resolution:
Reinforcement that Thred is muscle - They're there to talk, not hurt. Amon kills Cyriac accidentally. Stages the scene as a break-in.

Notes
Cyriac Edos is another Viscount in Rainn and is fiercely loyal to the Margrave Warin Daloret. Amon wants to be the Margrave, not Warin, but needs to remove Warin so that Amon's house is next in line for the Duchy Rule. He'll do that by revealing proof to the court of Cyriac's traitor relationship with the hated Sush.

Amon visits Cyriac quietly at his estates since he wouldn't respond to Amon's summons. Slips in with Thred in tow for some muscle, just in case.

There are no servants around. The hellborn have actually REDACTED.

Accusations and denial ensue. Cyriac says his dealings with Bute are between himself and Warin and are no concern of Amon's.

Thred keeps staring at Amon.

For some reason (Thred), Amon loses control and attacks cyriac. they fight and crash into a table. cyriac's neck is broken. He is wildly creepy-freaking out, but a sense of calm comes over him. He has to hide the body? Aha! Make it look like a break-in. they trash the place. kitchen too.

finds and pockets the emerald swordbelt. it was given to bainburn on his raising to Commander of the March.

Spiraling down into evil bigtime now.



then, since my brain moves WAY faster than my fingers can type, i'll bust out the abbreviated notes for it like so:
Spoiler for Hiden:

## FOUR
### Daylight

[rolling out at night - thred thought it would insure fewer guards... er... less activity]

[it's a day's ride, so they left late. the estate is swampy land, right on the border with sush]

[talking to cyriac about information from the torture -- you're feeding us to the sush animals!]

[thred is there for tough-guy suport]

[amon hasn't been able to hook up with cyriac at stormhall]

[should be a non-violent meeting since it's just him and not an assassin or a bunch of armed dudes]

[he'll be there... and off-balance]

[there are no guards. thred suggests the kitchen door -- there were always people around the kitchen this time of night]

[Surely at this hour, Cyriac would be in his study or the library with a pipe in his teeth, a snifter of apple brandy in his hand, and a thick, leather-bound book on his lap.]

[at a noise, thred ducks into a doorway, amon is all 'what? huh?]

[they find cyriac in his study napping with a book and a snifter of brandy]

[amon gets all 'WHAT UP BEEYOTCH?!?!]

[cyriac is all coy, irritates amon, thred is pushing him too]

[amon attacks cyriac. they fight. they break. should thred stop them?]

[they breathe. something sets amon off again.]

[amon attacks cyriac again.  this time he's ready and pulls his dagger.  they scuffle over the dagger.]

[amon wins out, gets cut, but totally shivs cyriac with his own dagger]

[describe thred assessing the situtation]

[it was his fault!  he pulled the dagger!]

[thred gives him a drink from the snifter]

[what have i done?!? first jylai, now this. i'll have my shit stripped fo' sho']

[a flash of creepy, scary amon on the horizon -- i might as well just kill them all.]

[thred's all 'ummm...' -- and snaps amon out of it]

[we've got to get out of here, yo]

[yeah, you're right. and i hear sush raids are pretty common up here.]

[they trash the study]

[they go to leave]

[amon realizes they need to trash more of the house. they trash the kitchen]

[one more! amon goes around and punches out the window to the study from the outside. "in case those lazy servants come back"]

[they need to ride back through the night. thred thinks it's best for the margrave to know immediately.]

[amon can totes frame warin for this!]



and, finally, i'll put my headphones on, and rip through the prose, replacing the bracketed notes as i go.  the final result of my first draft was this:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xGvKeu1VBVb-ELQrQqui34lmS7J20EcmnvO13Mb8zN0/edit?usp=sharing


so, that's basically how i get to a chapter's first draft.  is that weird?  is it basically how everyone works?  what do you guys do?

Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2015, 11:03:11 PM »
I, um, I write. Usually jot down an outline for a first draft, which is 'bout as good as the one you presented, though never more than ten words. Though I usually map out a scene in my head beforehand.

Rewrites after that? I jot down what I need to focus on or fix. Most is in my head.

Short stories, though, I just write and hope for the best come editing time. All that structure you laid out? Hah. Not a chance.

Never music, though. Can't go back from silence. I need my thoughts quiet.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2015, 11:16:15 PM »
Your process is pretty much exactly what we do, @m3mnoch. For our novel what we've done is essentially a slightly different version of the snowflake approach:

1) Summarise the main thrust of the book in one sentence.

2) Summarise six sections (kinda like acts) and five turning points (the scenes that trigger the act changes). The sections are (and roughly how much of the novel they're meant to take up): Setup (10%), New Situation (15%), Progress (25%), Complications (25%), Final Push (20%), Aftermath (5%). It roughly works out at one paragraph of outline per 5% of the novel, so 2, 3, 5, 5, 4, and 1 for each section, plus somewhere between one sentence and one paragraph each for the turning points. That outline totals roughly 1000 words for our current novel.

3) Split the above roughly into potential chapters. This is more juggling bits around so that events line up in a way that will help the chapters flow properly rather than anything final. It helps to highlight potential pacing issues and that kind of thing, and it's pretty much disregarded after the adjustments have been made.

4) Split the above into scenes, with a sentence to a paragraph describing the flow of the scene. At this point we add the extra info like that which you've got on your outline chunk to help make sure we remember to put all the key elements in place.

5) Write out abbreviated notes for the scene we're working on, which tend to come out as a stream of short present-tense sentences and sensory impressions. It generally looks like what you had for your abbreviated notes, but usually a little more comprehensive.

6) Convert the abbreviated notes into prose.


For short stories, we work out our ideas, then go straight to the abbreviated notes. Once we've got those down we adjust them and move things around/cut things before converting to prose.
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Offline JMack

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Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2015, 01:19:03 AM »
@m3mnoch:

I'm really curious about having the Reversal after the Climax in the short story template.
I would think of that as part of the escalation to the climax.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2015, 01:28:54 AM »
I've become a big planner in my writing, out of sheer frustration at the time and words swallowed by getting stuck. :) But for starters, I have endless notebooks of bits and snippets of ideas - world fragments, character sketches, plot bits, and all the other things I jot down because they're interesting but not a whole novel by themselves... yet. Once I get together a few of these, though, they start bubbling away together and that's when I know I'm on to something worth trying to pin down.

Once I have an idea that feels "big enough" (which usually means I have a rough idea of starting situation and ending situation, and some key characters for the scenario) I do some skeletal planning. For me, that's some basics of protag/antag - maybe a paragraph on the goals, obstacles and development of each - and then a reversal ladder. This is, essentially, the major plot points of the story, alternating between Protag ascendant and Antag ascendant. I'm looking for somewhere between 10-15 of these for a novel, so they can be big leaps.

(Sometimes in here I pause to worldbuild, if needed. Sometimes what I'm writing is world-lite and the world is more a sense of aesthetic and details will spin out of the plot. But sometimes it's more world-heavy, and I need to pin down the mechanics of the special physics and all the ramifications before I start coming up with plot elements that won't work because of the world I want. F'rinstance, if "magic-users can fly" is a vital world component, I'd better nail down how that works before I get into a plot that pivots around imprisoning a magic user on a mountain.)

From there, it's much as others have outlined. I flesh out those big points and the paths the story takes in between, which gives me an overall outline (in the realm of a synopsis - a couple of pages). And then I flesh that out further into chapter and scene breakdowns, so I know exactly what's happening in every scene. (I recently tried leaping into rough-drafting without scene breakdowns, and then hit a chapter note that said, "X helps Y play a prank on Z, and then demands help for mischief in return." and got completely stuck on the details of both prank and mischief. I've gone back to scene-outlining, so that I can pull elements from later in the story to foreshadow with the pranking and mischief. Otherwise, I'll just end up agonising over a scene that will get completely rewritten when I have a complete draft.)

For first-round revisions, I do exactly the same thing all over again. I read my rough draft, and then I start over with a basic outline of what the story should be, what arcs the key characters need, and what the reversal/chapter/scene outlines should be in that case. Then I add/delete/rewrite/tweak as needed to get from what I have to what I want. Only then do I start worrying about line-edits and felicity of expression.

Offline DDRRead

Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2015, 02:23:17 PM »
I've not settled on a process yet. I've experimented with quite a few: The Marshal Plan, The Snowflake Method, Freytag's Pyramid, Dan Wells 7 Point Plot Structure, and the Lester Dent Pulp Plot Master Plan.  I've also read lots of books on the craft.

The longest piece I've written to completion is 30k, but that was pantser style, it was also very easy to do, because it was a dumb comedy D&D parody with no plot or real characters to worry about. I have written more on unfinished projects using the various methods listed above. Some of those I'm still working on a little at a time.

Flash fiction is always without plan, some shorts in 2-4k have used a plan, but  most are off the cuff. I've completed a number of 10-15k short stories and those used a kind of hybrid method of outlining cribbed from everything I've studied and lots of brainstorming and notes before starting.

The only thing I have used consistently, since I discovered the technique, is scene and sequel. Sometimes I wing it, but am aware of scenes as I write, other times I've written scene outlines on index cards before starting.

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2015, 03:13:37 PM »
@m3mnoch:

I'm really curious about having the Reversal after the Climax in the short story template.
I would think of that as part of the escalation to the climax.

that's why i was saying it was loose.  for example, with the space opera thing, you can sorta track it through all of the parts.

1 - Stasis:  our scoundrel is, of course, in space pub, telling stories.

2 - Trigger: pew, pew!  big alien thing.

3 - The quest:  dealing with the alien thing.

4 - Surprise:  *whistles*

5 - Critical choice:  really, kid?

6 - Climax:  wombats!  blasters!  more pew, pew!

7 - Reversal:  he doesn't even feel bad.

8 - Resolution:  an assumed back to business as usual.

a couple of them are weak, but it's more-or-less the flow i assembled.


I've not settled on a process yet. I've experimented with quite a few: The Marshal Plan, The Snowflake Method, Freytag's Pyramid, Dan Wells 7 Point Plot Structure, and the Lester Dent Pulp Plot Master Plan.  I've also read lots of books on the craft.

whoa!  moar stuff to look up!


The only thing I have used consistently, since I discovered the technique, is scene and sequel. Sometimes I wing it, but am aware of scenes as I write, other times I've written scene outlines on index cards before starting.

omg, yes.  scene and sequel is a phenomenal construct.  love it.

Offline KaiHerbertz

Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2015, 04:47:19 PM »
For my novel "Age of Torridan" I used the note card method from the late Blake Snyder's book "Save the Cat." During the process I ditched a few of those cards, which did not fit the story. That alone saved me from throwing away several thousand words, had I written those chapters.

Despite having that outline, I developed some new ideas of how things could fit together as I wrote the book and learned more about my world. For example, originally the magic had no rhyme or reason to it, but half way through I introduced a consistent logic and limitations to it.

Right now I am writing seven first chapters for seven different stories. Once I settled on one of those to turn it into a novel, I am going to plan out the story with note cards.

Offline DDRRead

Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2015, 05:03:38 PM »
I used the note card method from the late Blake Snyder's book "Save the Cat." During the process I ditched a few of those cards, which did not fit the story. That alone saved me from throwing away several thousand words, had I written those chapters.

Is that the Beat sheets with 15 different beats?


Quote
Right now I am writing seven first chapters for seven different stories. Once I settled on one of those to turn it into a novel, I am going to plan out the story with note cards.
That's the sort of approach that appeals to me.

Offline KaiHerbertz

Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2015, 10:21:59 PM »

Is that the Beat sheets with 15 different beats?

It's been a while since I read the book, so I'm going to say no. From the beats of the "movie" I think I'm only using the middle "everything looks gloomy" part.
I just meant the method of laying out all of the scenes as notecards.

Quote
That's the sort of approach that appeals to me.

Glad to hear that :)
I'll be sure to mention it, when those 7 first chapters are done. Currently I have one, so it'll be a while until I'm ready to show all seven.

Offline night_wrtr

Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2015, 02:41:02 AM »
My methods are evolving as I go. I am a recovering pantser, so outlining was hard in the beginning but its starting pay off. (I know where the story is going!)

I use the Writer app on my phone to take notes on ideas floating in my head. I usually daydream a lot about an idea or a character until they seem real enough to put to paper. Then, I will put down main points in plot or character arch. Once I have a decent idea of where I want to be, I throw together where I think it will end.

Endings are hard. If you ever come across a partially torn/burned copy of my first book, you would know what I mean.

My current wip is a new attempt at my first book, which is so loosely based on that original plot that  the characters are all that is recognizable. It has been a long process to think about the story without fumbling through it as I go, but I love the way everything is coming together.




Offline DDRRead

Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2015, 10:11:49 AM »
I usually daydream a lot about an idea or a character until they seem real enough to put to paper.

This is a subject that really interests me, doesn't get talked about much, and is, I think, one of the most important parts of a writer's process. Yet when answering this question I went straight to the mechanical/craft side of things rather than considering the more creative and esoteric side that is the dreaming the story. There have been a couple of times when I've been blocked on a story that have purely been down to not giving myself enough time to engage in the dream.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2015, 10:48:26 AM »
I usually daydream a lot about an idea or a character until they seem real enough to put to paper.

This is a subject that really interests me, doesn't get talked about much, and is, I think, one of the most important parts of a writer's process. Yet when answering this question I went straight to the mechanical/craft side of things rather than considering the more creative and esoteric side that is the dreaming the story. There have been a couple of times when I've been blocked on a story that have purely been down to not giving myself enough time to engage in the dream.
I didn't mention it because it's so fundamental to every step of the journey. At each point in whatever process you use, if you don't have the scene running through your head, then you'll have big problems, I think. Obviously for us it's slightly different, because we often chat things through as well, but it's the same thing really.
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Offline m3mnoch

Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2015, 03:30:16 PM »
I usually daydream a lot about an idea or a character until they seem real enough to put to paper.

This is a subject that really interests me, doesn't get talked about much, and is, I think, one of the most important parts of a writer's process. Yet when answering this question I went straight to the mechanical/craft side of things rather than considering the more creative and esoteric side that is the dreaming the story. There have been a couple of times when I've been blocked on a story that have purely been down to not giving myself enough time to engage in the dream.
I didn't mention it because it's so fundamental to every step of the journey. At each point in whatever process you use, if you don't have the scene running through your head, then you'll have big problems, I think. Obviously for us it's slightly different, because we often chat things through as well, but it's the same thing really.

it must be really nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

me, i've got a fair commute into the office -- about 35 minutes each way.  that gives me time to put on some music and fold thoughts over in my head.  that's really my daydreaming time.

that being said, being a dm for a (counts on fingers) three decades has trained me to loop and plot on the fly.  surprising a party of adventurers (especially my players who've been in it as long as i have) is really hard.  they've seen every trope in the book about a million times.  often, i'll fake them into a trope (oh yes, rainn readers, i'm faking you out) and deliver something that bends their brain.  and once i get going, crazy shit starts to happen.  "what exactly do you mean the demon scooped the princess up and is wearing her on its hand like a sock puppet?  can you even do that?"

so what i've discovered with my writing and assembling stories is that my idea process kinda goes like this:

1 - i pick a genre/theme out of a hat.  whatever i'm feeling.  (for example, i've already decided the next thing i write is going to be victorian steampunk)

2 - now comes the twist.  what crazy surprise things can i build the entire story around?  this is where i'll consult an automatic plot generator or something if i'm running dry or uninspired.  just some idea-spurring thing.  as an example, i just clicked and voila!  assassins, cult, ancient race, creepy technology -- go!

3 - i figure out the high-level character parts.  what kind of person are they?  what's their journey going to be?  what are their boons?  what are their flaws?  (that last bit is ridiculously important)

4 - next is the twist-friendly ending.  what's a nice way to finish that up?

5 - then, the "stasis" part.  how does this all start?  what is the state before shit got real?

6 - now, i outline.  i sketch out a few major major events, then interpolate in between.  aka the character should be 30% on his way to crazy by now...  how would a 30% crazy person handle this?  this is where i do a lot of the folding back into the plot.  i think lots of authors call this 'weaving'.  "aha!  this character is a great red herring to throw at the reader.  bringing him back so they'll totally think he's wens!"

7 - once i have the outline, i start in on the prose like above.

like i said, most of the ideation comes on the commute.  lots of it comes in the shower.  in both cases, i have to worm at an idea, even count them so i remember how many i had, so when i get to a stopping point, i can write them down.  i think something about that helps to cement the world and events in my head.

Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Sharing Your Writing Process
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2015, 02:53:55 AM »
My process is pretty loose. I don't plot on paper until about 75% of the way through, and then my outlines are more like an order of events to cinch everything up.

Before starting, I decide who the character I'm starting with will be and what the point is (if there is one), then I just start writing. I usually don't know anything beyond a single character and their motivation. My ideas for the plot usually outpace my progress, in as far as writing things down, so I always know, at minimum, what the next chapter will be. Usually by the time I'm 25-50k words in, I know where the majority of the book will go.

Though... there have been occasions where I'm 70k words in, and will add a new character arc out of the blue. I don't usually go back and add chapters that weren't there previously, but I might add one or two scenes. For the character that was added at 70k words in, his plot arc began at 70k words and I just ran with it from there (though, keep in mind I'm long winded, and that one's a 370k word book).

Sometimes I know key events, either for a character or the story as a whole, other times no.

After I have a finished story, I go back through and rework it. Usually that involves large rewrites (usually not entire chapters, just minor changes to scene and key dialogue) and some minor re-characterization (usually just changes to motive, I don't tend to change much about who they are and how they speak/behave). In my current WIP this rewrite phase has included completely changing the motivation of two characters in order to add more tension and so that the dialogue was more blatant about what's going on, who the key players were, what the underlying plot was - mostly just things that will reinforce the plot twists and reveals which come later down the line.