Author Topic: When do you write your story? 1/3, 2/3, or 3/3rds of the concept? Start/Mid/Fini  (Read 939 times)  

Offline scott.marmorstein

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Must be tired. Couldn't figure out a better Subject Title, sorry.

When do you start to write the story? For me, I have written with only the beginning ie 1/1 of the story. But I find it's much better if I know at least the beginning and middle of the story, ie 1/2 the story. Only rarely do I know the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

I tend to be a 'pantser' anyway, and I could never squeeze all the juice from the creative process by designing every aspect of the story before I set to actually writing it. I know that works for some, and I've tried it, but it doesn't work for me.

Anyway, just curious about what your process is for the storyline. What works for you?

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    Online jb1111

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    First, I have to have a general story idea / plotline in my head, along with the main characters -- who they are, what they do, etc.

    Then, I write the blurb (which, obviously, will change). Then, I'll come up with a basic outline, which stays at the bottom of the document until it's ready to upload.

    Then I start with an opening chapter, and see how it goes. I don't get too extensive with outlining and planning, as -- at least for me -- it seems to take some of the inspiration out of the writing process. But that's just me.

    I don't know which percentage of story one could say I have when I start. Probably at least ten to twenty percent, if you include the basic plotline as part of that percentage. The rest is just filling in the details, basically.

    Offline atree

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    I will only start when I know how it ends.

    A story is like a map.

    You are here ::) (blank page) ................. ............
    .............. ............. .......................... ......................
    ................................. ................... ..............
    ......... ........... ....................... .............
    ............... .......... ....................... ......
    ....... ................... ....... ................ ............. .................
    ........ ........ ........................................... .............................. .....
    ............................. ......................................... ...........................
    ....... ......................................... ......... ...................
    but you know this is your destination :)  (how it all ends) .... .......
    ............ ......................... ...............
    ........................... ....................................................... .......... .....


    Just like map, there are many paths you could have taken to that destination.
    So how the heck did I get here? Knowing the ending of a story kickstarts the brain working in a structured way.

    Backtracking is easier than if you only know the beginning because starting with a beginning seed opens up an infinite amount of possible paths towards an unknown ending (this is why many find the middle so hard - because you might have followed x number of dead ends, but by the middle you're getting an idea of what direction the end might be... and now you need to close a bunch of roads off to not confuse the reader (hello editing hell) there can only be a single path at the very end.

    Starting with the end is imho so much easier and is often all I need to start writing a story.

    So the ending of a tragedy/thriller might be
    Carl dies, poisoned by Elisabeth who goes to prison but is finally free of his brutality

    That's how it ends.

    Yes, there are ten thousand ways this story can be developed, but they all lead to the same conclusion. The target is clear. It keeps every one of those stories moving in a similar direction.

    • Writing with only a known ending is like walking through wilderness but with a rescue tower on the horizon to guide you to safety. At first you can barely see it but the closer you get the quicker you can move.
    • Writing with only a known beginning is like walking through wilderness with an unreliable compass. At first it seemed to work but day after day it points in different directions, making you backtrack to find the path you already stepped on before.

    My tips regardless of if you are a plotter or a pantser:
    • NEVER start to write until you know how it all ends.
    • Don't overwork the ending guide for yourself. You don't want a blurb or a full page explaining it to you. You want an ending you can describe in one or two sentences, easy to see and remember.

    « Last Edit: May 04, 2020, 11:18:56 pm by atree »

    Offline Decon

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    I didn't use to pay attention to it consciously in my early work, more by instinct, but I now use the three act construction, but only loosely when writing the draft. I always know the ending and as a crime thriller writer as to  who done it so I can set up red herrings. In one book I wrote the twist ending chapter 1st and everything drove towards that.

    I only pay strict attention to the three act structure in the length of each act when editing the finished draft. Out of a 60 chapter book, I try not to let the 1st act go much more than 15-20 chapters.

    Using the three act structure is a time proven structure for a well balanced pace to the story.

    In one book, I split the story into 2 parts, with each part having its own 3 act structure. The first part had a different MC leading to a murder seemingly by the MC as a, resolution. The second  part introduced a detective MC investigating the murder and led to the resolution of a twist ending as to who done it.

    1st act, set up
    2nd act, confrontation
    3rd act, resolution.

    The acts if evenly spaced help towards a satisfactory pace, and also in keeping the attention of the reader to expectations, though I prefer the 1st act to only count for a quarter of the chapters.

    Spend too much time on the 1st act leading to the plot point and it will usually end up slow paced and lose the readers interest. It also means that the latter acts have to be condensed and give the impression of a rushed construction.

    You can still pants a 3 act structure but it is better to have it in mind while doing so.

    Not all stories lend themselves to a three act structure, its just a common construct to expectations in certain genres.

    The 3 act structure is not the be all and end all as how each develops to plot points. How they are structured in what they achieve is the complex part
    « Last Edit: May 05, 2020, 03:52:37 am by Decon »


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    Offline scott.marmorstein

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    Awesome feedback, everyone. Thanks for sharing!  :)

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    Offline Carol (was Dara)

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    Nowadays, I don't begin until I have a full outline but, in the early years, I used to start when all I knew was the characters and the opening scene. I had no idea where I wanted to end up, I just made it up as I went along. It was an exciting way to write, but I wound up having to go back and delete or rework a lot of scenes once I figured out what the plot was. I eventually switched to using outlines as a time-saver.

    Offline Decon

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    Nowadays, I don't begin until I have a full outline but, in the early years, I used to start when all I knew was the characters and the opening scene. I had no idea where I wanted to end up, I just made it up as I went along. It was an exciting way to write, but I wound up having to go back and delete or rework a lot of scenes once I figured out what the plot was. I eventually switched to using outlines as a time-saver.

    Same experience. It makes it so much easier. I actually start with the blurb first and not after the event. That way I know if it has legs for the genre before I start outlining.  Outlining is not everyone s idea of what to do, but for me it still allows for a degree of pantsing and at times I've had to rewrite the outline as the story takes on a different course
    « Last Edit: May 05, 2020, 12:49:43 pm by Decon »


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    Offline alhawke

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    I do think outlining saves time and is recommended, but I don't use one. I also believe the 3 act structure Decon mentioned is important to consider when developing your story. At the very least, the writer should be aware of these things.

    Here's my weird unrecommended panster method (I envy those of you who are more organized): I start writing. If I'm really inspired, I write most of my rough draft from start to finish. If not, I have a stop and start method: I write a few initial chapters and I return to the initial chapters, revising and deleting what I don't like. Revising my initial chapters usually gives me impetus to move on--if it doesn't, I need to scrap the whole thing. Also reviewing the beginning helps with writers block and low confidence ;). My method requires being prolific (like 2k per day pace), writing a lot, and revising and tossing a lot in a trash bin. But you should be writing a lot anyway.

    I don't believe you have to have an ending, but I have an idea where the story's going and what will happen to my MC. I just don't narrow down specifics until I'm there.

    Carol's right. "Panstering" is more time consuming. But, for me, more fulfilling.
    « Last Edit: May 05, 2020, 01:07:15 pm by alhawke »


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    Offline Usedtoposthere

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    I start when I know the characters very well. I don't normally have the plot beyond a general idea, and I don't outline. (I can't. I'm not creative in that way. I can't think things up.) I don't do any rewriting though or throw things out. I write the book all the way through and so far (on book 31), it's worked out fine every time. Even on pretty complex mystery/suspense books. (In many cases, I don't know who the bad guy is until halfway through.) It doesn't take me extra time. Whether I know what comes next or not, I write at about the same steady pace, though some books are faster than others. I edit as I go and rewrite for the first half of every day, then write new stuff, then edit it--and edit it again the next day.

    I average 2K-3K edited words per day while I am working on a book, up to 7K/day edited words for the last 4-5 days of writing. It takes me 2-3 weeks to think up a new book though and to research the characters. My books are 110-150K. The fastest I've written & edited a long book is 5 weeks for a 120K story. The slowest is maybe 8-10 weeks for a book of that length.
    « Last Edit: May 05, 2020, 03:26:06 pm by Usedtoposthere »

    Offline scott.marmorstein

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    I start when I know the characters very well. I don't normally have the plot beyond a general idea, and I don't outline. (I can't. I'm not creative in that way. I can't think things up.) I don't do any rewriting though or throw things out. I write the book all the way through and so far (on book 31), it's worked out fine every time. Even on pretty complex mystery/suspense books. (In many cases, I don't know who the bad guy is until halfway through.) It doesn't take me extra time. Whether I know what comes next or not, I write at about the same steady pace, though some books are faster than others. I edit as I go and rewrite for the first half of every day, then write new stuff, then edit it--and edit it again the next day.

    I average 2K-3K edited words per day while I am working on a book, up to 7K/day edited words for the last 4-5 days of writing. It takes me 2-3 weeks to think up a new book though and to research the characters. My books are 110-150K. The fastest I've written & edited a long book is 5 weeks for a 120K story. The slowest is maybe 8-10 weeks for a book of that length.

    Wow, that's impressive. If I didn't work a full-time job during this pandemic, have bizarre ass hours, I'd love to get to the point where you are. Sadly, I think that level of writing for me is just over. I get to whatever I can get to when I get to it. It's tough to still have skin in the game at this point.

    Scott Marmorstein

    Offline psychotick

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    Hi,

    I'm a pure pantster. I start when I have a scene and work from there. I don't know where the book will end until I finish it.

    Cheers, Greg.
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    Offline DCRWrites

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    I start when I have an idea, and then spend some time thinking about how it is going to end--usually a visual.

    For example, my current Doc Vandal adventure (I'm a chunk into vol. 7, but had to take a hiatus to write an RPG supplement) is going to end with a "rock'em sock'em skyscraper fight but I still don't known how I'm going to get there.

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    Offline scott.marmorstein

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    I start when I have an idea, and then spend some time thinking about how it is going to end--usually a visual.

    For example, my current Doc Vandal adventure (I'm a chunk into vol. 7, but had to take a hiatus to write an RPG supplement) is going to end with a "rock'em sock'em skyscraper fight but I still don't known how I'm going to get there.

    I might write the fight scene first and reveal some of the reasons for the fight through dialogue that the fighters have when they're catching their breath or taking cover. It might shed some light on how they got there.

    Scott Marmorstein

    Offline Decon

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    These are my original unedited notes on a WIP I have nearly finished. I expanded on the 2nd and 3rd act since I took the notes, but it gave me an idea of how the story would progress and left plenty of room for pantsing

    In Search of Candice.
    Mystery crime thriller

    2nd standalone in Detective Stone series to In Search of Jessica.

    1st chapter. Intro. MC Detective Stone, returning home from date after girlfriend dumps him. Urgent radio message. Officer down. Races to scene. Describe scene. Cop dead. Other recent cop killings after cop on black murder at a traffic stop, end with vulnerability of all attending. Possibility of trap at scene by assassins laying in wait.

    1st act. Inciting scene, cop killing, set location. LA. Develop character of Detective. Loner, competent, but at times cuts corners. Conflict with fellow detective. Not just because they are both jostling for promotion, but because he stole the love of his life and married her. Ambitious. Jealous that rival is given the officer down case. Conflict with Captain. Captain has meeting with him. Possible commendation. Turns out he wants him out of the team  to resign with an either or to take a position back on traffic patrol with the sheriff's Office. Uses rivals report on last joint case for leverage. DOJ enters, interrupts. Turns out his bosses awkward attempt was to ask him to go undercover at a station to report on cop killings relating to possible racism at embedded at Station.
    In his apartment, show him slightly psychologically disturbed. Dad an alco. Killed himself and wife when drunk. No siblings to turn to. Bullied at school. Set him on a course to be a loner out to prove himself by whatever means. Online dating, no luck with woman. Plays guitar, blues fan. 19th  Nervous Breakdown. Aware he needs to get his act together.

    Night shift. Show other patrol offices don't take to him as an ex detective. Officer Granger's cohorts. Racist remarks also evident. On duty, woman (Candice) reports robbery, needs cops to attend for for roadside assistance to attend. Black woman. Flat tire. Attracted to her. Unreliable witness, scared of repercussions . Same officers who disrespected him turn up. More disrespect, racist remarks relating to Candice. Scene later when he sees villains. Retrieves woman's discarded purse. Calls for back up. Goes it alone, doesn't wait. Same officers who disrespected him turn up. Don't assist with arrest. More disrespect. Following shift, part of large inter agency exercise to take down gang in Compton near where Candice lives. Takes purse with him to return to Candice. GIven a partner. Black officer. Gas station robbery. Black officer kills white girl crack addict robber. Stone takes a bullet in vest plenty of action. Altercation with Granger's crew when they turn up. Rival detective turns up to investigate white girl's death. Partner on admin leave due to incident. Carries on alone as part of gang bust. Road block with two other officers(Grangers cohorts,) who disrespect him with banter. Gang bust called off, tip off. Tells officers going for a leak. Returns purse. Asks her to meet up with him to give a statement regards Granger's racist remarks. Closes door on him abruptly. Explosion. Glow. Returns to car in flames. Gangs of youths turn up. Other officers gone after saying they'd wait . Calls for back up. Riots develop due to gang project. Reason to suspect other officers torched his car. Following morning discovers incriminating evidence re officer torching his car. Tries to contact Candice again with many calls, pretext of statement, but really wants to date her. She threatens to report him for harrasment.
    Called to meeting to give statement to internal affairs inquiry into girls death at an office at the DOJ. Told he's to join his partner on admin leave. More phone calls to Candice. She returns call, warns him off again. Racist overtones of questions from internal affairs. Dodges question regarding something his partner said after he shot her that could have had a racist motive. After meeting called into to see his handler at DOJ. Says calling off undercover operation after riots. Using announcing re-education and training to calm further rioters. Especially with white supremacists turning up to protest black cop shooting white girl. Antifa, black rights movement. Manages to talk him out of closing down his undercover work and to try and get him released from admin leave to see if he can find out if someone at the station tipped off the gangs about the bust, but really his intention is to investigate the two cops he suspects of torching his car, and why.
    1st  plot point. Returns to his car after DOJ meeting in a parking lot. Accosted by 2 guys, doesn't get to see their faces. Warned off trying to contact Candice again, or else.

    2nd act. Becomes obsessed with Candice, more so since warning, intrigued. Goes into stalking mode, becomes more psychologically disturbed in his persuit of checking her out. Takes many photos when staking her out. Pins them on wall at home. She spots him following her. Stone gives dossier to DOJ on Granger & racism at station, also reason to suspect officers torched his car. Ex girlfriend make up artist gives him disguise. Sees Candice have contact with Granger and his crew at a casino. Reports this to DOJ. Goes on a bender. Drunk, leaves bar, sees prostitute and thinks she's Candice. Mugged and robbed.
    2nd plot point. Following morning. He's arrested, apartment searched. Suspected of kidnapping Candice. Makes bail. Reason to suspect 2 FBI guys who interrogate him are the ones who accosted him about Candice after DOJ meeting. Either she's on witness protection and has reported him to FBI, or she's under investigation and he's been spotted following her

    3rd Act.
    Investigation to find Candice and to prove his innocence.  Two cops who torched his car assassinated. Teams up with ex black partner who is, set up originally as a red herring for the cop killings. xxxx has kidnapped her.Finds out Candice undercover FBI. Rescues Candice, brings xxxxx, mastermind of corruption who tipped off the gangs about the bust and the real cop killer to justice. Gets his date with Candice.


    « Last Edit: May 11, 2020, 05:43:29 am by Decon »


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    Offline scott.marmorstein

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    These are my original unedited notes on a WIP I have nearly finished. I expanded on the 2nd and 3rd act since I took the notes, but it gave me an idea of how the story would progress and left plenty of room for pantsing

    In Search of Candice.
    Mystery crime thriller

    2nd standalone in Detective Stone series to In Search of Jessica.

    1st chapter. Intro. MC Detective Stone, returning home from date after girlfriend dumps him. Urgent radio message. Officer down. Races to scene. Describe scene. Cop dead. Other recent cop killings after cop on black murder at a traffic stop, end with vulnerability of all attending. Possibility of trap at scene by assassins laying in wait.

    1st act. Inciting scene, cop killing, set location. LA. Develop character of Detective. Loner, competent, but at times cuts corners. Conflict with fellow detective. Not just because they are both jostling for promotion, but because he stole the love of his life and married her. Ambitious. Jealous that rival is given the officer down case. Conflict with Captain. Captain has meeting with him. Possible commendation. Turns out he wants him out of the team  to resign with an either or to take a position back on traffic patrol with the sheriff's Office. Uses rivals report on last joint case for leverage. DOJ enters, interrupts. Turns out his bosses awkward attempt was to ask him to go undercover at a station to report on cop killings relating to possible racism at embedded at Station.
    In his apartment, show him slightly psychologically disturbed. Dad an alco. Killed himself and wife when drunk. No siblings to turn to. Bullied at school. Set him on a course to be a loner out to prove himself by whatever means. Online dating, no luck with woman. Plays guitar, blues fan. 19th  Nervous Breakdown. Aware he needs to get his act together.

    Night shift. Show other patrol offices don't take to him as an ex detective. Officer Granger's cohorts. Racist remarks also evident. On duty, woman (Candice) reports robbery, needs cops to attend for for roadside assistance to attend. Black woman. Flat tire. Attracted to her. Unreliable witness, scared of repercussions . Same officers who disrespected him turn up. More disrespect, racist remarks relating to Candice. Scene later when he sees villains. Retrieves woman's discarded purse. Calls for back up. Goes it alone, doesn't wait. Same officers who disrespected him turn up. Don't assist with arrest. More disrespect. Following shift, part of large inter agency exercise to take down gang in Compton near where Candice lives. Takes purse with him to return to Candice. GIven a partner. Black officer. Gas station robbery. Black officer kills white girl crack addict robber. Stone takes a bullet in vest plenty of action. Altercation with Granger's crew when they turn up. Rival detective turns up to investigate white girl's death. Partner on admin leave due to incident. Carries on alone as part of gang bust. Road block with two other officers(Grangers cohorts,) who disrespect him with banter. Gang bust called off, tip off. Tells officers going for a leak. Returns purse. Asks her to meet up with him to give a statement regards Granger's racist remarks. Closes door on him abruptly. Explosion. Glow. Returns to car in flames. Gangs of youths turn up. Other officers gone after saying they'd wait . Calls for back up. Riots develop due to gang project. Reason to suspect other officers torched his car. Following morning discovers incriminating evidence re officer torching his car. Tries to contact Candice again with many calls, pretext of statement, but really wants to date her. She threatens to report him for harrasment.
    Called to meeting to give statement to internal affairs inquiry into girls death at an office at the DOJ. Told he's to join his partner on admin leave. More phone calls to Candice. She returns call, warns him off again. Racist overtones of questions from internal affairs. Dodges question regarding something his partner said after he shot her that could have had a racist motive. After meeting called into to see his handler at DOJ. Says calling off undercover operation after riots. Using announcing re-education and training to calm further rioters. Especially with white supremacists turning up to protest black cop shooting white girl. Antifa, black rights movement. Manages to talk him out of closing down his undercover work and to try and get him released from admin leave to see if he can find out if someone at the station tipped off the gangs about the bust, but really his intention is to investigate the two cops he suspects of torching his car, and why.
    1st  plot point. Returns to his car after DOJ meeting in a parking lot. Accosted by 2 guys, doesn't get to see their faces. Warned off trying to contact Candice again, or else.

    2nd act. Becomes obsessed with Candice, more so since warning, intrigued. Goes into stalking mode, becomes more psychologically disturbed in his persuit of checking her out. Takes many photos when staking her out. Pins them on wall at home. She spots him following her. Stone gives dossier to DOJ on Granger & racism at station, also reason to suspect officers torched his car. Ex girlfriend make up artist gives him disguise. Sees Candice have contact with Granger and his crew at a casino. Reports this to DOJ. Goes on a bender. Drunk, leaves bar, sees prostitute and thinks she's Candice. Mugged and robbed.
    2nd plot point. Following morning. He's arrested, apartment searched. Suspected of kidnapping Candice. Makes bail. Reason to suspect 2 FBI guys who interrogate him are the ones who accosted him about Candice after DOJ meeting. Either she's on witness protection and has reported him to FBI, or she's under investigation and he's been spotted following her

    3rd Act.
    Investigation to find Candice and to prove his innocence.  Two cops who torched his car assassinated. Teams up with ex black partner who is, set up originally as a red herring for the cop killings. xxxx has kidnapped her.Finds out Candice undercover FBI. Rescues Candice, brings xxxxx, mastermind of corruption who tipped off the gangs about the bust and the real cop killer to justice. Gets his date with Candice.

    Thanks for sharing your process. Now I don't feel like I'd have to read the book.  :P

    Scott Marmorstein

    Offline Decon

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    Thanks for sharing your process. Now I don't feel like I'd have to read the book.  :P

    That's the idea of a sort of synopsis. At 90,000 words completed, there is obviously a lot more to how it is crafted. While you might not need to read it after seeing the notes, it told me it had legs to write it.  :) :) :)

    If you think about it, the notes are only 2 pages on A4. I like to know roughly the basis of the story the genre structure and to avoid writer's block and before investing time in writing 200 A4 pages.

    The blurb is even shorter and easier to write before you start than at the end
    « Last Edit: May 11, 2020, 09:33:09 am by Decon »


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    Offline juliatheswede

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    I'm a pantser who wishes she was a plotter. Just doesn't work for me. Having the blurb---at leas the general idea---is helpful to have before I begin a new book. The final blurb will be ready far sooner than the actual book. I usually have a general idea how it will end, but that can change when I get toward the end. If I think there is a better ending.

    Offline Decon

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    I'm a pantser who wishes she was a plotter. Just doesn't work for me. Having the blurb---at leas the general idea---is helpful to have before I begin a new book. The final blurb will be ready far sooner than the actual book. I usually have a general idea how it will end, but that can change when I get toward the end. If I think there is a better ending.

    Nothing wrong with this method. It's each to his own. I agree with having the blurb written down first, if for nothing else it shows that the story has legs for your genre expectations, but for me it also motivates me to write the story as blurbs are meant to create interest to read the book, hence the motivation to write the story.

    I didn't use to think this and wrote completely by the seat of my pants until I joined a writer's site in the days when most submitted to agents. There were 1000s of new and unpublished authors on the site seeking crit and It took a few years on the site to realise that most struggled with blurbs and even more so with a synopsis when submitting after the book was complete. (me included) Many didn't even know what the genre of their story was. It helps if you are pantster to have read extensively in your genre, so the structure is at least in your sub-conscious when writing.

    I studied blurbs for my genre to understand expectations which made them easier to write. Also there is a reason that agents ask for a synopsis to include the ending and that is to confirm that the story is crafted to a recognised structure for the genre. To me it therefore makes sense to write at least an outline of the story first to prove the same to me as it would do to an agent, ergo it should prove to be a satisfactory story for the reader, providing you are a reasonable wordsmith.

    In my genre, blurbs only need be 100 to 200 words and cover the basics. For me that's, who it is and what they hope to acheive. What or who stands in their way, and finally what are the stakes if they don't succeed.

    Of course, in the days of Self-publishing, you don't have to prove anything to anyone, only the reader. So as I say each method is up to the individual as to what is best for them.
    « Last Edit: May 11, 2020, 10:30:40 am by Decon »


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