When I started writing my first novel, I jumped in with both feet and never looked back. I had the idea laid out in my head. Not each scene or chapter mind you, or even all the characters, or the setting, or the antagonist, or three acts, or any research on the technology that would eventually become part of the central plot. The ending, you ask? No, hadn't really given that much thought either.
But hey, I did know who the protagonist would be, but no, I hadn't really flesh out his background on paper or anything. He was going to be cool though. I knew that. He wasn't going to be like all the other hero's out there. He was going to be different, something unusual. There was no rush, I could wait to get to him. After all, he wasn't going to appear in the book until at least chapter seven. So, what's the rush to figure out what made him who he is?
Yep! I had the whole idea right up here in this 3 lb water filled organ known as my brain. After I started writing, I found I had at least five different ways I could go with the story. That was when I decided I would have an ironic ending. Instead, I ended up with a big explosive James Bond finish. Which was great, but it would have been nice knowing the ending when I started writing the story
At the beginning, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about the story. Like, I knew there was going to be two guys and a girl, but I didn't know there would also be a chimpanzee, or ancient frozen bodies, or fighter planes, or dead bodies everywhere, or a machine, which would play an important part in the story. I didn't have any sub plots, or twists, or a background on the chimp. Well, I really didn't need one on her, but it would have been great to have had an idea about what the girl was going to be like.
I wrote so much extra stuff that when I finally decided on the direction of the novel, I was able to cut a small paperback's worth of writing from it. I wrote whole chapters and created new characters as I went, and then decide they didn't fit what I was trying to do.
It was the same when I wrote non-fiction as a staff writer for a self-help publisher. They were only short non-fiction stories on health, wealth, and other similar topics, but many times I still felt like I was going in the wrong direction and would have to delete stuff until I felt I was on the right track.
When I started freelancing for a children's publishing house, they demanded to see and approve outlines before you were allowed to start writing the story. At the time I thought to myself, "What a waste of time. I could be writing the story instead." It took me only one book to come around to their way of thinking. Every kid's mystery I wrote for them after that, I started by creating character bios and an outline of the story. Start to end. I found that when I started writing the actual story, it all flowed and came together quickly. I would finish the first draft of over a hundred page book in only a couple of days.
I knew there would no longer be excess fat in my books. I knew where my setting was, who my characters were along with their little quirks, I even knew the ending. I found it made my writing better, more exciting and more precise.
I know everyone has a different way of writing or pre-writing in this case. Some writers use 3x5 cards for notes or to lay out a sort of storyboard. Other's, like me, use outlines. Some writers are mindholders and are able to hold it all in their heads, without losing a single paragraph.
Tell me how do you prepare to write your stories? How do you research? How do you create your characters? Let me know your writing process!
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