It occurred to me yesterday, in a conversation with another writer, that (despite what they told us in english class) we all have different ways to write, to create the story, and to get everything put on paper. My new friend, a sci-fi writer, was explaining how she carefully worked out her entire story plot, all the characters, all the events, into a detailed outline before she started writing her story, and then, in her words, it was easy to write the book, it practically wrote itself for her.
I smiled and nodded and personally thought how that much organization would basically be my own personal hell — when it comes to fiction writing. As you have guessed at this point, I flung everything my english teachers ever tried to teach me about outlines, form, and organization out the window with how I write.
There is an outline to my stories — but it’s very basic, doesn’t include many details, and rarely stays the same for more than a few days. Writing for me is an incredibly fluid process, and I find that tying too much of the story down on paper instead of actually writing it binds me up and gives me a horrible headache. Occasionally hives.
Generally, the way it works is….. I get an idea. It may not be for an entire story — it may only be for a character, it might even only be a line of dialogue. But its something that plants the seed. The seed germinates in my head (which is easy, because it is full of B.S., LOL). Other ideas come to me. I do tend to write them down, but I don’t try to force them into an outline format, or even to play well with each other. I do some research on things that interest me that might be tied in to this seed of an idea. This process can go on in the background for months.
Eventually, one of the characters will come to me and ask me to let them tell their story, and this is when the real writing starts. The story begins to flow from me as they tell it to me. We have some false starts. The book I’m working on now, the first 20k words have been re-written 3 times to get them right, and the concepts in the storyline changed multiple times. Characters add themselves into the story at will, when they introduce themselves to me. Sometimes that changes the storyline, sometimes it simply affirms it.
Writing to me is not ME telling a story. It is, instead, me passing on the story of another. My characters live and breath in my mind (along with all my personalities — some days its a little crowded up there, I’m surprised the police aren’t called more often). They decide how their stories go, not me. And its like the interviewing process…. sometimes you have to go over something multiple times and from multiple characters points of view, before you understand where they are trying to take you with it.
At the moment, I’m 40k into the story, and feeling very very good about how it has shaped up recently. Totally different direction than where I originally tried to force the story to go, but that’s okay. Now, all those nagging little ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions that I attached to the original idea are gone. It feels right. It flows. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work some of those other ideas back in later. Depending on the agreeability of my characters of course. I’m excited to see how the next 40k words flow, and what new characters appear and what new things I learn about the lives in my story.
So, how do YOU write? Plan it all out? Stream of consciousness writing? Plan a little, write a little? I know there are as many ways to approach a story, to tell a story, as there are storytellers. I’d love to hear yours.