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Author Topic: New stories
Symphonyofnames
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Just wondering. What do you all do to prepare to write something new? How much do you plan out, how much do you leave to be invented along the way?
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Merlion-Emrys
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I think that just depends entirely on the person, and on the story.


I personally don't really do outlines much. However, I almost universally allow a story idea to "stew" in my head for a good while. What exactly that involves varies, from just letting it sit, to methodically trying to figure out how best to present it, what all needs to happen etc. I do right notes some times.

I have some stories where I try to get a sense for a basic begining, middle and end before I start...others I mostly let form themselves as they go...still others come in blocks. It just depends.


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BoredCrow
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For me, I tend to write pages and pages of notes, just letting my thoughts jumble themselves onto paper until something that feels right comes up. Then I take walks to let the ideas stew in my mind.

I'll often start writing right away, but in chunks, paragraphs that come to me naturally. I fill in the blanks later.


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Tiergan
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Beginning, and End, these are generally speaking my strongest scenes as well. The scenes, the landscape, the conflict is very vivid in my mind for these. As I like to say, probably stole it from someone, the destination is written but the journey is not. Of course, then I need to find the middle somewhere along the way, which is where I run into problems, until the just before my eyes close muse hits me, then my wife hits me for waking her up as I sneak out or worse, try to write my notes in the dark, usually waking up to find I wrote an entire scene in 2 lines, just over top each other and not readable.
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Crystal Stevens
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I usually start with a conflict and then thinking what kind of person would end up in that situation and where it should take place... what kind of world, the culture, what the people look like and how they act, that sort of thing. Then I try to play the story out in my mind and see if it'll work or not. If it does, then I try to go through the story's high points in order. Kind of like a synopsis. Once I have this down, then I use the high points like a rough draft and fill out the story. Sometimes I stick to my original written ideas and sometimes I don't. There have been times when I start to write the story out in more detail that it takes a direction I never would've considered in the original version. Then, it becomes fun !
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Robert Nowall
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I usually work most of it out in my head. I start with some outrageous scene or idea---outrageous in terms of real-life, that is, not outrageous as an SF story---mull it over in my head, try to think of what comes before and what comes afterwards, try to justify it in my mind...then, sometimes, I'll write it down and start it. (Usually it dies on me somewhere around that point.) Then I'll be writing up some notes on plot and maybe some on background, too...and then, if I'm lucky, it takes off and I carry on until it's fairly far along.
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Bent Tree
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Anything over 10k, I usually plot out on paper, but as mentioned it really all depends on the person. When in doubt plan, because often as new writers, we exclude alot of valuable info that the readership is looking for. Also the more you know or think about the world or character you are writing about the richer the piece will be even if all that information isn't given in the text.
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Meredith
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Small sample to draw from so far.

It seems to depend on the story. For a novel, I usually start an outline. I know the beginning (or what I think is the beginning), the middle/climax, and the end. But that first outline usually has about ten or twelve chapters for a story that will ultimately have about thirty-five chapters. I let the story and the characters tell me a lot of what happens in between as I go.

For a short story, so far, I've just started writing. Considering that all my short stories have turned to mush about two-thirds of the way through, maybe I should try outlining them, too.

For either kind of story, I will write blocks that come into my head out of sequence. Then I will put them into the correct place in the story and fill in around them. Some of the best things my characters tell me have come this way. Just whole scenes or blocks of dialog that are in my head when I wake up in the morning or get out of the shower, etc.


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C L Lynn
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If I don't know the end of the story, I can't begin writing it. The times I have done so, the story usually peters out halfway through, b/c it has no direction. I also write character sketches and usually come up with far more info than I can possibly incorporate into a story. Same thing with pages of world-building and magic system details. Dialog is the big thing that I outline - the info that must come across, etc. I love writing dialog and hate it when I forget what a character was going to say while I'm distracted fitting in the exposition details. So often, dialog gets written first.

For novels, I will jot down the main events up front (not exactly an outline), then as I get deeper in and things evolve, I will write a detailed outline of the things that are coming up next. But the joy of it is, no matter how much I outline, surprises always pop up in ways I never could have predicted. That's when it feels like a godsend


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shimiqua
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I stew on something for a long time. I, maybe, write a quick crappy first draft, then I forget about it.

Until the idea comes back in my mind with forse and vision. Then the story tells me how it wants to be written, and I just type as fast as I can, so I can read the words after they have been typed.

I just write from my gut, write the story is if I am remembering it, not inventing it. The stories that I have written that are actually succesful, as opposed to those that are just lame-oes that havent showed me their true selfs yet, were all written from the gut.

I just write and don't think. The thinking, the daydreaming; that's for earlier. Thinking has no place in good stories. Thinking is for editing. Thinking is plotting.

I just write, and try to look around my own thoughts to hear those of my characters.

That may mean I'm crazy. But at least I'm in good company.
~Sheena


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steffenwolf
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When I started writing, I got an idea-spark, and just started writing until I finished it. This may have been partially due to the fact that I did (and do) just write in spare snatches of time, so I might get a page done, and then have hours to stew over it, including the mindless commute to work and back, or when I'm on the bus. Everything seemed to work out.
Lately when I've tried that the story seems to peter out as I can't figure out the ending. So for my WIP I kept stewing over it until I came up with an ending. It may not be THE ending I use after I've stewed as I write some more, but at least it's something and I can always revise it later.

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Symphonyofnames
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I tend to go for the method of writing out pages of notes. I find that if I just start writing about it, more things come, and it ends up being rather stream-of-consciousness, so I have to go back in and organize the ramblings into outline form. I do like to keep the outline pretty general so I can make up stuff in between and just explore.

Characters do have a way of changing things once they get going.

Do you all write works from beginning to end, or skip around a lot? I write straight through, and I think I need to stop.


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BenM
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The stories I've been happiest with once they're done are the stories I've planned the most at the beginning. But in my case that's also a very small sample size from which to draw some sort of statistical conclusion, so it's certainly not advice.
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Meredith
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"Do you all write works from beginning to end, or skip around a lot? I write straight through, and I think I need to stop."

I kind of do both. I write the story from beginning to end. But, if something comes to me for a scene that will happen later in the story, I go ahead and write it. I can always revise it, or even not use it at all, when I get to that place in the story. But I'd rather have it written down than risk forgetting it by the time I get to that part of the story. I usually keep a special file on the computer for these "scraps". I'm still working out the second book, The Ignored Prophecy. But I've got "scraps" for things that will happen in the third (untitled) book.


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Merlion-Emrys
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I don't generally write anything out of sequence. I may have things further down the road in my head, but most of what I write grows organically as I go to a pretty large extent, within the realm of the basic idea I've pre-thought out.


Really for me theres a good bit of general commonality in how I write but a lot really does vary from one story to the next.


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annepin
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Plotting ahead of time rarely works for me. It just feels too artificial, and often when I write a story according to "plan" I find I get stuck, thinking, now, why the heck would the character do that? Even if I've planned out motive etc. Somehow the minutia of getting the character here to there, whether in thought or deed, becomes more complicated than I anticipated.

My new method (for books--and if you can call it a method since I haven't really gotten any out the door yet) is to have a general plan. This will be the main conflict, this will be the ending, or this will be a critical turning point. Then I start writing, usually from the beginning but not always. I'll write what I know. Usually something comes up and I'll go with that, and then I figure out what the next section will be.

Often I have to go back and redo stuff because the characters don't work out. When I've worked through the most urgent parts of the story (urgent to me, anyway), I go back and do my character work. I let the story stew for a long time while I gather information about my characters and my world. By this time I know enough of the story to know what they are like. Once I have that more secured, I'll go back into the story and continue writing.

Short stories are very different. The most successful ones are the ones I have a feeling for from start to finish. I don't outline, but I have in my head the essence of the story. I don't know what the scenes are going to be yet but I generally know what they need to accomplish.


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Meredith
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"Plotting ahead of time rarely works for me. It just feels too artificial, and often when I write a story according to "plan" I find I get stuck, thinking, now, why the heck would the character do that? Even if I've planned out motive etc. Somehow the minutia of getting the character here to there, whether in thought or deed, becomes more complicated than I anticipated."

I have changed even what I thought of as fairly major elements of the plot (not the climax), because when I got there I knew that the character just wouldn't do that. I've also added unanticipated elements to the plot because I realized that there was something the character would do. Often, those really enrich the plot and make the story worth while for me.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 05, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 05, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 05, 2009).]


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C L Lynn
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quote:
Do you all write works from beginning to end, or skip around a lot? I write straight through, and I think I need to stop.

I write straight through, and it's always seemed natural for me to do so. It wasn't until recently that learned that many writers write random scenes and later connect them with the in-between details. Once, long ago, I tried writing the end of a story when it was clear as a bell and I thought I just had to write it NOW. But as soon as that exciting end was out on paper, it utterly killed my enthusiasm for the story. So I never wrote out of sequence again. I guess, then, for me, it's the story's high points that drive me to write at all, so I save them up till the right time or I probably wouldn't get through any of my stories.


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Lyrajean
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I don't outline. If I do its because the story has grown past me ahving a good mentalhandle on it and make a list of characters and their notworthy characteristics and an outline of chapters.

I do character sketches as in draw them ( I tend to start with characters and scenarios and then think of a plot). Sometimes I do maps.


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TaleSpinner
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I outline a plot and a backstory complete with historical and scientific research as appropriate. I usually know more about the characters and their world than I need to write the story, giving me the feeling I can lend it depth with little details here and there. I've also got some sense of the scenes I'll need to provide opportunities to establish a sense of place or character, or foreshadow things or build tension. When I get to naming the characters, usually near the end of this process (for it's only then that I know the characters I need to tell the story), I know the story is about ready for a first draft, which I do at one sitting--mine are all short stories thus far.

But I'm not a slave to it all, and when I write the story I let the characters and events take it where they will.


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Jaz
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Personally for most stories I do a short page of notes, ideas that hit me in the story creation phase and at any time during the writing process but don't fit in right then- names, places, descriptions, lines, etc. I also try to keep a notepad handy to jot down things (like late at night when my subconscious sifts through things).

For longer stories I will do a brief outline - no more than 1 page, just to help me structure it a bit.

Like my WIP Novel:
Part I – Title
Chapters 1 M release and return home
Chapter 2 M back in A2 and finding what is left
Chapter 3 is A rise thru company
Chapter 4 is A and M meeting early blissful relationship
Chapter 5 is A and M troubles and ending relationship

Part II – Title
All chapters about ...

Part III – Title
All chapters about ...

I've just found that that works for me. Some people write enough pages of notes to call that in itself a novella, but that's not for evertyone.


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dee_boncci
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I've done it a variety of ways, from partial outlines of novel-length projects to nothing but a trigger and a 90-minute deadline. Typically, I'll have some idea of a character and a situation, and a vague sense of how it might end. The ideas refine themselves as I work.
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Merlion-Emrys
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C L Lynn: Thats much what I was getting at too. I don't think I'd be able to write "the good stuff" and then have energy and focus for the connections.
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