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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I feel like one thing I notice between different writers is that the initial decision making process is really pretty variable. What I mean is, when you first start the story, how much of a, I want to do this and this and this, goes into the book? Not necessarily about if you outline or not, but I'm curious about different perspectives about how to approach before writing. Is it just one idea that sparks the book, or is it a more systematic progression of, these are the things I want to accomplish? And, how does it all work out? Does making a big plan actually make everything turn out just the way you want it, or is it just a case of crafting the perfect sand castle, just to see it wash away while you write it all out.

I guess I'd land somewhere in the middle on it. Most of my planning comes in reaction. Something happens, some new character comes in, and then I have to sit down and think to myself, well, what happens now? It adds a level of excitement to my outlining phase and keeps my brain in that, anything can happen if that's what happens, space. Is it a perfect system? Nah, but it works just right for me.

Mostly, I'm just wondering how much of "I want this in my book" goes into your writing before it all takes shape. And how much of that actually ends up at the last page. Because it seems interesting :)
 

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I guess my thinking goes in one of two directions: 'How can I stick a bunch of tropes I like into a story?' or 'This movie/show has angered me because of so many squandered opportunities involving what could have been a well done romance, so I must fix it.' For my stories starting from wanting to write my favorite tropes, they're easier to put together(the characters, worlds, plot, etc.) with a simple outline. They're finished quickly and don't make too much trouble.

The fix the ending stories so my brain will shut up is a much more meandering path because I have to figure out first what aspects of the show/movie have me obsessed, why, and how to make the story my own. While these stories do eventually work out the way I want them to, they have consistedly ended up being finished way behind schedule and require more editing. This is why I've forced myself to write longer and more detailed outlines despite how tedious they are for me.
 

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'This movie/show has angered me because of so many squandered opportunities involving what could have been a well done romance, so I must fix it.'
I have so many of these notes. It'll be "like x but without/with x part" because there's so many things that are like so close to finally giving me that story I relate to and then they switch it up and miss the opportunity and I'm left wondering how could they lol.

My fantasy books were born out of one of those, but as always, my plans for the story were left in the dust as I went and what I ended up with was very different, and very Swiss cheese.
 

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Damn it, I wrote something out and deleted it by mistake. I'll try again.

Hi, Nick. I'll start by saying, I write thrillers. The main questions I ask before I start is "Why does this story matter to me? Why should it matter to the reader? Can I work in a theme that will stick with the reader? Can I create a main character that the reader can identify with?"

Like most of us, I guess we get many ideas flashing through our mind. Every now and then I'll have an idea that excites me and it plays out like a very short film as to where it will go and likely end. I also give some thought to the twist ending. That helps in planning or introducing characters as red herrings, though I don't know who they will be until I get to them. Those are the only stories I make a start on. It doesn't matter if I pants or outline, it's that excitement of the initial idea and answering those first questions that spurs me on. I always start with a draft blurb to know the story has legs for the genre. It's much easier for me to write a short blurb before I start writing than to have to figure it out once it's finished and my head is muddled with subplots and twists over say a 90k word story. I usually brainstorm a title and do a mockup of a cover, which sort of motivates me before I start.

I've done both methods, but for standalones I prefer to pants, but then I have the three act structure in my head as to where I need to be at in various points in the story, to include the midpoint. If I haven't outlined, I won't call it writer's block, but sometimes I have to step back to daydream where I need it to go. That could be for a day, a week, or a month before the sparks hits me for the direction it needs to go. I did outline for my trilogy, but that was too big a project to leave to chance by pantsing. With that I outlined all three before I started..

I prefer to aim for the inciting incident at the third chapter, but as long as it doesn't go beyond 10%, I can live with it,. It's all down to how the story develops and the strength of the foreshadowing before the wrench jams the works. I generally have a bank of ideas for at least the first say six chapters, but sometimes it won't work out the way I intended. Ongoing, I add to that bank of chapter progression of the way I see it going in my head. I'm one of those who eats, sleeps, and dreams the story in my downtime as it consumes me until it's done. So I'm always thinking ahead.

I'm not saying I don't pay attention to all the chapters that progress the story, but I labor over the first chapter, though not the opening line, only maybe the first two paras for the hook. I'm not that smart that I can come up with an opening one liner to grab the attention, though I try. I do set out with a definite idea of what I hope to achieve in that first chapter as follows:-

I never start with dialogue or have the character thrown right away in to action without knowing first who they are, their location, and where they are at in their head. I look to introduce the character in their normal environment, or situation they find themselves in.

What I'm looking for in the 1st chapter is to show their desire going forward, I also try for an inner fear that could hold them back. Usually some misbelief that gives them a flaw in their character for them and the reader to discover their truth near or at the end. Once that's done, that's the emotional side over with that I hope to create empathy for the character going forward. It's inner conflict I'm looking for rather than the outside conflict an antagonist will bring to the table in that 1st chapter. For me the antagonist is for introduction later. All that remains is to foreshadow and lead to either a cliffhanger or a strong question for me to want to start on the next chapter.

Anyway, that's my process. It's not always been that way, but it's how my writing process has developed to date to have structure over the years..
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I won't call it writer's block, but sometimes I have to step back to daydream where I need it to go. That could be for a day, a week, or a month before the sparks hits me for the direction it needs to go.
That sounds very familiar. Sometimes I think about just plowing ahead and getting the next chapter done, but I always find that some proving time helps me really sort out the way to go ahead. Thanks for the detailed response Decon :) There was a lot you wrote where I thought, wow, yeah that's pretty much how I do it, but definitely different too. Even if we aren't writing the same genre, it's fun to see that there are similarities on the creativity side of things. Your process sounds like a good blend of making things spontaneous but also making it all go the way you want it to go. Maybe someday I'll end up with a good process like that. Something that keeps the fun of it all alive, but is more thought out. A lot of the times I feel like me the writer is just running and chasing characters, and they're always getting a little further ahead of me.

So, awesome to hear your thoughts as you're going through the story. It's very interesting. Sorry you had to write it twice though :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I guess my thinking goes in one of two directions: 'How can I stick a bunch of tropes I like into a story?' or 'This movie/show has angered me because of so many squandered opportunities involving what could have been a well done romance, so I must fix it.'
It's always fun to think about fixing an idea. I always get this when there is a new installment of an old franchise I love and the new one is very, meh. Could I do better? There's only one way to find out.
 

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For me, a core idea germinates in the mind first - for e.g., "I'm going to write a story about this lost city" or something like that. And then I typically write a super simple, 1-line per chapter outline, and by the time I'm done with it, I have a pretty good idea of how my book will evolve, what the "world setting" should be, what my characters should be, and major events in the book. After that, the chapters kinda flesh themselves out. And then rinse, repeat for the next book.
 

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So, I feel like one thing I notice between different writers is that the initial decision making process is really pretty variable. What I mean is, when you first start the story, how much of a, I want to do this and this and this, goes into the book? Not necessarily about if you outline or not, but I'm curious about different perspectives about how to approach before writing. Is it just one idea that sparks the book, or is it a more systematic progression of, these are the things I want to accomplish? And, how does it all work out? Does making a big plan actually make everything turn out just the way you want it, or is it just a case of crafting the perfect sand castle, just to see it wash away while you write it all out.

I guess I'd land somewhere in the middle on it. Most of my planning comes in reaction. Something happens, some new character comes in, and then I have to sit down and think to myself, well, what happens now? It adds a level of excitement to my outlining phase and keeps my brain in that, anything can happen if that's what happens, space. Is it a perfect system? Nah, but it works just right for me.

Mostly, I'm just wondering how much of "I want this in my book" goes into your writing before it all takes shape. And how much of that actually ends up at the last page. Because it seems interesting :)
I definitely have nuggets of story that come to me, and whether they're inspired by something or not, these nuggets aren't a fully fleshed out story themselves, but more like ideas that could work well within a genre, or seeds of a theme I want to explore that could really be planted in a variety of genres. I keep pretty extensive notes, most of which I'll probably never have the time to fully explore or see grow to their full potential, but when I sit down to plan something, I look and see if anything would fit. Most of my ideas are not books, but when combined with other ideas, or when planted in the middle of a genre fic plot can add a little flavor, a little substance, which is something I appreciate as a reader.

With the mystery series I'm writing now, the mystery plot is pretty straightforward. Intro the crime, intro the suspects, reveal facts and lies, and then the investigation results in a final confrontation. Overly simple, but you get what I'm saying, it's in between these key moments there's quieter moments where there's opportunity to transcend the formula. Also, and this may be specific to mystery, but I see a lot of opportunity in the question of why rather than who. Yes, whodunit is fun for the audience, it's a puzzle, but we as authors have the opportunity to explore themes beyond black and white justice with the why. A lot of mysteries I read shy away from fleshing out the killer or the victim as good and bad. Usually it's more comfortable for the killer to be someone irredeemable and oftentimes petty, but also sometimes the victim as well, so we don't dwell on their death and have fun with it. And that's fine, I love a light read myself, but if I have an idea I want to explore, it's been fitting nicely in the why question.

My outlines, in my head and otherwise, always end up on the sidelines, mostly forgotten. It's like a dry run. My first drafts are usually in my head, and then writing it, the book takes on a life of it's own. But I've never felt like I lost out on my perfect book by letting the outline go. I've come to realize the outline only seems perfect because it's the bones, and it never represents the sum of a story's full potential. At least that's been my experience. Sometimes I really want to force one of my precious nuggets to fit and they just don't and I have to let it go, but you know that famous quote about killing your darlings? It's true.
 

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I don't think I really have a process, aside from outlining. Usually plots come from one basic idea that I will then expand. Other times, they come from a mix of multiple ideas that have been sitting in my head for months or even years. A few months back I realized that five distinct ideas I had could work really really well together and bam! just like that I had not just a novel but an entire universe that I could use for a bunch of novels and short stories.

Interestingly though, I rarely know my characters when I start writing. Sometimes I'll take a bit of time to figure out the main one I'll be using, but in most cases I just like to let them come to life as I write, take on a personality and develop their past as the story unfolds.

So I guess you could say I pants the characters and outline the plot LOL.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I've come to realize the outline only seems perfect because it's the bones, and it never represents the sum of a story's full potential.
This is definitely very true. A lot of the time when I hit the point where I look at my outline again, it's a case of, this has all changed. But I still think it's good to have that initial structure.
Sometimes I really want to force one of my precious nuggets to fit and they just don't and I have to let it go, but you know that famous quote about killing your darlings? It's true.
Ha, I don't know about you, but I feel like killing my darling ideas gets easier over time. I've come to realize that the next new idea will be the one that I'm going to get excited about, so I don't always have to make everything fit. If it doesn't work, then in a few days I'll be excited about something else. Heh, definitely make that manic energy work for me sometimes:LOL: But I find it very freeing to be able to say, I really like this idea, but I'll like the next one too, so I just have to be objective and decide if it works or not. I should start writing things down more though. You said you had a list, and that's probably the way to go. I could definitely use those fizzled ideas someday.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Interestingly though, I rarely know my characters when I start writing. Sometimes I'll take a bit of time to figure out the main one I'll be using, but in most cases I just like to let them come to life as I write, take on a personality and develop their past as the story unfolds.

So I guess you could say I pants the characters and outline the plot LOL.
That is pretty interesting:) I kind of end up the opposite, going in with a good idea of the main characters, and a general idea of the plot, but letting it develop. But I do like to write first person a lot, so I feel like the perspective is important to establish in the beginning because if my main character is boring, I'm in trouble:LOL: The ending is always established though. I can go on a big pantsing journey to get to the end, but I like to always know what it's going to be. And if the characters are interesting enough to fill the pages, then I feel pretty good about things.
 

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Thanks for the post, NikOK. Interesting topic!

I start by imagery, typically inspired by music. If I see a character I really like in my mind, I write on. I pants. And then I correct with numerous edits. If there's no character, then there's no story and I abandon the project. Pantsing is fun because I never know where a story is going to go, but it can be laborious.

It's interesting because I have a character that haunts me. I've thought about him for years but can't seem to fit him into a story. I think it's because I dreamt him up when I was too young and my story idea now seems juvenile. I hope that one day he can see the light along with my other ones.
 

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I guess I have two processes regards developing an idea and staring a book as I described earlier.

I stopped writing for 2 years, determined not to return to authoring, and during that time, I developed an idea for a trilogy in the Post-Apocalyptic= Dystopian genre that festered, until in Covid lockdown, I had the basics in my head of all three books and time on my hands to fill.. I published the trilogy in full in March this year, all on the same day. The detailed outline and research took me a month, but I'd kept coming across articles in the news and YouTube short articles during that 2 years that I saved to memory. The outline was so thorough it only took 5 months to write all three books at an average of 95k each.

During that 2 years downtime from writing, I'd read two books, One on General Bolivar, a biography of sorts, where he defeated the Spanish to form various nations in South America under his dictatorship, until they divided into the Independent nations we know today. Bolivia is named after him.. The other was about the African Queen Nzinga, who fought the Portuguese for forty years in Angola against their slave trade. She was also a renowned negotiator. Both had aspects that I used in the book, without copying. Difficult to explain without giving the story away. Suffice to say both books are mentioned and are a big influence on the main female character and partner to the Prepper's son that affect the outcome in the last chapter.

Each book had its own plot and theme, but I managed to have an overall plot arc for the trilogy.

Much of the idea was borne out with the political and a racial division in the US watching both CNN and Fox news in good measure, together the Chinese posturing on the world stage and skirmishes with India and them annexing the atolls in the South China Sea. Religious dogma also figured in my thinking. I knew it could skirt contentious subjects in the political, racial, and religious arena and alienate some readers, but I ploughed on anyway. After all, I wasn't preaching, simply writing a fictitious-speculative fiction based on a "What if?" premise. I was an itch I had to scratch.

I started out splitting the idea into three. The destruction - The division - and the rebirth of the US from as it is now but with the constitution later dead in the water.

I then developed three log lines for each of the three books and titles, together with the trilogy title of: The Prepper's Son trilogy as the story was to unfold through his eyes in first person, with faction leader characters in third person for the wider world view. All faction leader POV chapters had their own plot line as part of the whole that converged in the last book, intertwined with events that caused conflict with, or had an outcome that affected the MC and the overall plot arc..

Book 1:Earth's Fury: Our last Thanksgiving,
WHEN THE SUN FLARES -- EARTH’S MANTLE HICCUPS -- SOCIETY SUFFERS

Book 2: Secession: The Last Fourth of July
WHEN DISASTER STRIKES - THE GOVERNMENT HIDES - CHAOS RULES

Book 3: Invasion: Alliance of Nations.
A NATION DIVIDES - THE WHOLE WEAKENS - STRENGTH WINS


The research was perhaps the hardest part, as I wanted the disaster to be plausible, and for that I drew on forecasts for the outcomes of events involving natural disaster, both in the US and around the world. I also looked at historical disasters. There were maps I found that showed changes to the landscape of the US territory, and World after a ginormous disaster. Political demographics of the various states was needed, and the hardest of all was studying the Constitution. I also found an interesting new discovery that NASA had just put out on a scientific discovery regarding sun flares which I put to good use There's much more to do with such as prepping, and experimental food production taking place, but as hard as it was, the knowledge gained was interesting and a good motivator as a good background to the emotional content of the plot involving the characters..

I also had every character's background, including the dog fleshed out in the outline.

I'm not using this as an argument between outlining and pantsing as I said before, I use both, but this project called on planning and research for me to pull it off. I should add that I was fortunate to have the help of a development editor, Natalia Gomez Valencia on here when she was starting and offering free development Edits and gave all three the once over. I would highly recommend her

I've never had a bestseller, so who knows if my processes work or not. All I know is that whatever method I use, I'm always satisfied at publication, and the rest it down to the reader gods.







.
 

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That is pretty interesting:) I kind of end up the opposite, going in with a good idea of the main characters, and a general idea of the plot, but letting it develop. But I do like to write first person a lot, so I feel like the perspective is important to establish in the beginning because if my main character is boring, I'm in trouble:LOL: The ending is always established though. I can go on a big pantsing journey to get to the end, but I like to always know what it's going to be. And if the characters are interesting enough to fill the pages, then I feel pretty good about things.
I write first person too, actually, at least most of the time ;)

It's interesting because I have a character that haunts me. I've thought about him for years but can't seem to fit him into a story. I think it's because I dreamt him up when I was too young and my story idea now seems juvenile. I hope that one day he can see the light along with my other ones.
Oh! I have two characters like that, that have been with me for ages. One since the mid-80's, the other since the early 90's. The latter of those two I've used in a few short stories back then, and resurrected last year for a brand new adventure (the first featuring him in 20 years). The oldest of the two, though, I have yet to use. I did start outlining a novel, but never finished that. Someday.

There is one other, more recent, that is also quite haunting, but that one is a recurring character that pops up in a lot of what I write.

For those three, I do have a good sense of who they are and what their personalities are like. But that's just because they've been with me for so long...
 

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This is definitely very true. A lot of the time when I hit the point where I look at my outline again, it's a case of, this has all changed. But I still think it's good to have that initial structure.

Ha, I don't know about you, but I feel like killing my darling ideas gets easier over time. I've come to realize that the next new idea will be the one that I'm going to get excited about, so I don't always have to make everything fit. If it doesn't work, then in a few days I'll be excited about something else. Heh, definitely make that manic energy work for me sometimes:LOL: But I find it very freeing to be able to say, I really like this idea, but I'll like the next one too, so I just have to be objective and decide if it works or not. I should start writing things down more though. You said you had a list, and that's probably the way to go. I could definitely use those fizzled ideas someday.
So much easier over time. I used to worry I'd run out of ideas. That is no longer the case, I have too many. I do keep the ideas organized so I can review it to put some plots together like a puzzle later maybe, but I mostly do this to get ideas out of my head. Some ideas persist, but mostly once they go in my notes app I'm relieved of them, which helps me focus on my WIP. For that alone, it's worth unloading them even if I never use them!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for the post, NikOK. Interesting topic!

I start by imagery, typically inspired by music. If I see a character I really like in my mind, I write on. I pants. And then I correct with numerous edits. If there's no character, then there's no story and I abandon the project. Pantsing is fun because I never know where a story is going to go, but it can be laborious.

It's interesting because I have a character that haunts me. I've thought about him for years but can't seem to fit him into a story. I think it's because I dreamt him up when I was too young and my story idea now seems juvenile. I hope that one day he can see the light along with my other ones.
That character sounds really interesting. I wonder if you can rework it a little bit now that you're older. There must be something there that keeps bringing your mind back to it, and the whole thing just sounds very cool. I'm always in favor of being able to let go of ideas, but if you can't do it, might as well make it work for you :)
 

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I really don't do a lot of deciding ahead of time. I write the blurb, and a very short outline. If what I'm seeing looks fun and interesting, I start writing. I don't really put thought into the tropes and other necessities -- they'll show up, either in the blurb / outline, or will appear while writing scenes. If I put too much thought into it, I never get to actually writing the book.
 
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