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How do you do it? : Writers' Block Party • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

How do you do it?

What's going on in your writing world? Connect with the writing community here and talk about whatever's on your mind.
JLC
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How do you do it?

Postby JLC » Tue Dec 27, 2016 1:46 am

Hi everyone - I'm very new here!
I'm wondering.....how do you all do it? I've wanted to write for ages, and I think I finally have something worth writing. But....I don't know how. I haven't written in many (MANY) years, and even then it was just short stories. I now have a historical fiction I'd like to work on, but I don't know where to begin.
Do you do all your research ahead of time, or as your story progresses?
Write the story in a linear fashion from start to finish, or in bits and pieces?
A formal outline, or see where the story takes you?

I have my time/place setting, my characters, my general story line, but I'm lost as to how to truly begin. So far it's just difference scenes running through my head.

Thanks for any advice you have!

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shadowwalker
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Re: How do you do it?

Postby shadowwalker » Tue Dec 27, 2016 9:54 am

The best way to begin, in my opinion, is to experiment. There are as many methods, and combinations of methods, as there are writers.

My 'method' is to write from beginning to end, without a plan, matching what happens to whatever has already happened, doing my research as I need to, editing as I go, one draft, done. Others will have detailed outlines, character charts, research everything before they start, multiple drafts and rewrites. Some know how it will end before they start, others (like me) find out when they get there.

This will, apparently, be your first long work. Chances are it will never get published, because most first attempts don't. Not to say you won't, in the future, revisit the idea and rework it using the experience you gained writing it (and other works) and eventually get published. But I would advise you not to write this one with the goal of publication, but with the goal of learning how you write. Try different methods and combinations of methods and tweak them to see which one(s) work for you. There will be methods you prefer, and methods that your brain just can't work with. The only way to find out is to try them.
"It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

It's really not that hard. Just tell me a story.

cjr1977
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Re: How do you do it?

Postby cjr1977 » Tue Dec 27, 2016 10:15 pm

When I start a new project I just sit down and write. I don't know where I am going at the moment, I really don't even know my characters motivations or who the antagonist is. Sometimes I may not really even know for sure who my protagonist is when I start. I just write until every part of the story in my head is out on paper (well my computer).

If I get enough down that I can see the beginnings of a storyline then I start to develop it once everything else is out of my head. At this point I look back at what I've written and decide/figure out what the motivations are and all the important plot points that make up a story. I also look at who's perspective I've written each scene from if there are different POV characters and if that is really the character who I want it written from.

Take the story I am working on now When I first started writing it it was third person, past tense, and my POV character turned out to be a minor character who from the perspective of the whole story had no business being a POV character. As I developed it I rewrote it in present tense, that is my preference, from one of my important characters perspectives. During this phase I will also do my character development and create an outline for each characters role in the story.

Then I always keep a small tablet and a pen/pencil or my phone nearby that way if I come up with something "brilliant" I can write it down for later. Some of those "brilliant" things go into my notes file and some of them go into the part of the story I'm working on. Some of them may be background that my readers never hear but I still keep it written down somewhere.

It really sounds to me like you are ready to just start writing. If what you write doesn't turn out to be the beginning that's okay, the beginning can come later. I actually often write the beginning and the ending then have to fill in the middle. I don't necessarily recommend doing it that way, it is rather frustrating most of the time to know how they get started and how it ends but not how they got to that point. The one I'm working on now is actually the first one I've written where I started from almost the beginning and am basically writing it through to the end. There is some skipping around since I have several different things happening at the same time but its kinda exciting to see the story really unfold in this way.

williamadams
 

Re: How do you do it?

Postby williamadams » Wed Dec 28, 2016 6:39 pm


williamadams
 

Re: How do you do it?

Postby williamadams » Wed Dec 28, 2016 6:40 pm


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shadowwalker
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Re: How do you do it?

Postby shadowwalker » Thu Dec 29, 2016 10:23 am

"It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

It's really not that hard. Just tell me a story.

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Brien Sz
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Re: How do you do it?

Postby Brien Sz » Fri Dec 30, 2016 12:40 am

Everyone has their own approach to writing. Some like to plan and outline and sketch everything out. That's fine if you are that type. Others just let it fly. And of course there are the myriad of things in between. It sounds like you are afflicted with paralysis by analysis. You are thinking too much. You probably want the idea to be close to perfect upon writing. That's probably not going to happen. Instead, just start writing. Even if the ideas are just in your head - wait until you start actually writing it. Things will change, sometimes drastically. I've had great scenes for story ideas that never made the final edit. You won't know the journey until you actually sit down at the keyboard and take it. As the old saying goes - Just do it.

miketom
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Re: How do you do it?

Postby miketom » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:58 am

With everyone, it's different. I get an idea about a character, and I let him/her stew in my mind until I see the beginnings of a story. I'll write what I see happening in my mind's eye. I use a steno book for my 1st drafts so I can include any drawings and/or maps or definitions, as they come up. I do my research as it's needed, and my librarian is very familiar with me. In fact, the children's section of the library is a good place to start research because everything is basic and understandable.
You have ideas of scenes, characters, even dialogue for your historical fiction? Get these down while they're still in your mind (It's amazing how much you think you'll remember, and you don't.) Does this help?
Formerly known as J T Hall and Lyn Carceo
Creator of a hanson/dragon/dinosaur world

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robjvargas
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Re: How do you do it?

Postby robjvargas » Fri Dec 30, 2016 11:16 am

Writing is an almost schizophrenic experience for me. The characters come alive, in a sense. They tell me their story, and argue with me when I try to go somewhere they didn't "actually" go.

My favorite example is the fantasy story I wrote. I was writing in a kind of isometric vision, looking over the character's shoulder as he was walking through an open plain. I wanted to put a castle there.

He stopped dead in his tracks, looked over his shoulder right into my eyes, and refused to make another move.

"A castle?"
"A castle would be awesome here."
"In the middle of a grassland?"
"It's a cool castle."
"What the hell is it protecting? Sod?"

The castle never happened.

The point is to remember that you have a tale to tell. So tell it. Let the story come out. You'll have time to perfect it later. For now...

Just. Write. Let it out. Warts and all.
Slowly putting together a "replacement" forum at http://writerswriting.proboards.com.

It's still under construction, but come take a look.

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ben_heath_
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Re: How do you do it?

Postby ben_heath_ » Sat Dec 31, 2016 8:37 pm

I'm going to write this as someone with nothing in a portfolio to show, someone really just starting out, and someone with absolutely no authority on the matter. Ya know, for posterity and giggles.

I grew up giving talks in a church that I had to write myself, from the time I was 9 years old or so. (Yep, no Sunday school business. I got up there and gave a 5-minute talk.) At first, my dad wrote my talks and bailed little me out a few times, but he didn't keep it that way. I had to write the introduction, then read from the Bible, and write the conclusion. The talk had to follow a logical progression, and it was basically an essay. The point is, I had to know what bullet point I had to hit at every step. It was structure. Also important was timing: I had only 5 minutes to give the talk so I had to move through each point briskly and economically. It may go without saying that I'm not a religious person today, but this was very important in my development. It taught me a lot, and perhaps made me think a certain way when it comes to writing.

in LibreOffice that has nested 13 sub-subheadings. Above those 13 are 5 subheadings, and above those 5 are 3 main headings. The 3 main headings (H1) are Act One, Act Two, and Act Three. The 5 subheadings (H2) are Christopher Booker's 5 metaplot phases. The 13 sub-subheadings (H3) are the 12 phases of Joseph Campbell's monomyth structure, with an additional Mirror Moment phase right in the middle. The word processor's navigation can then be used to cycle around the story.

(I'm partly fascinated with all of this because of the mathematical pattern that's present in the structure. But, moving along.)

From there, I can take a word count requirement, I divide that by 13, and that's how many words will go under each sub-subheading. Maximum 1500 word short short story? That's no more than 115 words per section. Minimum 80,000? That's at least 6154 words per section. Keep it economical whatever the case. To fill in the blanks, I can start in the middle or where ever and go from there, without looking at a blank white screen.

Penny for your far more experienced thoughts, and we'll see if it works for me.

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