Saturday, August 10, 2013

Process, process, process

I usually follow a rather structured process to develop a story once I get an idea in my head (which only happens three or four times a day, usually someplace where I can't write it down, and frequently having nothing to do with whatever is happening at that moment.)  Sometimes I can retain the idea long enough to write it down and, if it works, expand it a little.

Once I decide to work with an idea I'll write a page or two to expand the thought and then think about where that thought leads me.  Then I write some more, sometimes chronologically, sometimes just exposition, rarely an ending, or describe a setting. The result is that after a few hours I get a thousand words (more or less) of rather messy text.

My next step is to put the text into Scrivener and break it up into scenes.  I then add notes about the missing elements in each scene: character(s), setting, and/or time stamp and maybe expand those notes into narrative.  Then I look at what I've got, figure out what's missing and populate those scenes with a sentence or two.  I repeat this as many times as I need.  Sometimes I build a scene just to complete an arcs or add emotional complexity. All the time I am fiddling, moving the cards around to get the optimal pattern for the story.

When I am satisfied with the structure I begin writing each scene in detail until all the cards are filled with narrative, dialogue, or exposition.  Usually this process generates more scenes or breaks an existing one into smaller parts. The point is always, as I said in my blog on Scene Theory, to confine each scene to a few characters, a definite setting, and at a specific time.

I usually go through three to five drafts, occasionally on paper, before I send it to an editor.

I've discussed process with other writers who use very different approaches. Many sketch out some text and build it brick by brick, unsure of where the story is going and then, when they reach an end, go back and write it correctly.  Others write unimpeded by consideration and type whatever comes into their silly little heads for hours on end.  Some like to compose the entire story in their head before committing fingers to keyboard.  A few anal retentive types prepare detailed outlines, going so far as to delimit each entry to represent a paragraph of the final story.

And a few liars swear that their stories emerge fully formed in the first draft and need no editing whatsoever.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Bud!

    I've been really struggling with some structural issues in a novel I'm writing. I just threw out several chapters and need to replace them, and I think I'm going to give your process a shot for developing them. I think it might help.


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