How do you prepare a story?

Created about 2 years ago by Joseph Terzieva with 19 comments
Sort by
(scroll to first comment)
Dsc00487   copy Craig A. Munro · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 3 likes
Planning? Not really something I do consciously, at least not at first. I have a broad overview of where my story is going over 3 books, but that fell into place as I wrote. 
I go through phases of writing chaotically - creating scenes, dialogues, or just descriptions. Most of these just have filler names for places and characters. It’s not till much later that I realize how my brain is piecing the fragments together and how it all fits (and who the characters actually are!)
Fitting it all in and cleaning it up is for days when I’m not overflowing with ideas.
Self G. R. Paskoff · Author · added about 2 years ago

I don’t know how professionally trained writers do it, but here’s how it usually works for me:

1) Have a good idea or message/moral that I want to convey

2) Come up with good intro, ending, and a key scene in the story

3) Start developing main character(s): physical traits, personality, likes, pet peeves, history, etc.

4) If world-building is involved, start thinking about what is unique and compelling about the world. Maybe come up with some prior "history."

5) Start brainstorming and outlining chapter plots.

6) Develop secondary characters

7) Start fleshing out chapters, sub-plots, dialogue.

8) I tend to write all over the map. Sometimes I’ll be working on one chapter but get an inspiration for a different chapter. In the end, I will start stitching everything together like a quilt, narrowing down the number of gaps I have left.

9) Edit, edit, edit. It’s also at this point that I will solicit feedback from friends and beta-readers.

10) Leave it alone for a couple of months. Move on to something else, whether another writing project, or a book I wanted to read. The writing is still too fresh otherwise and I’m like a nervous parent that can’t let their kid out of their sight. Letting the work rest enables me to look at it more critically later to make the changes that need to be made.

11) Edit, edit, edit.

12) Hopefully be happy enough with it to share with others.   

Picture Serdar Yegulalp · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 2 likes
@Joseph Terzieva Just did this now. Thanks!
162980 10150347252315626 6077063 n Joseph Terzieva · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 1 like
@Serdar Yegulalp if you edit your post and highlight your link a dialog will pop up and you will get an option to make it clickable. That will help visitors access your link easier.
Picture Serdar Yegulalp · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 1 like
I took down some notes on that very topic for a blog post I wrote last year:

Picture Rick Heinz · Author · added about 2 years ago
I’m pretty crazy with mine. I’m a snowflake planner. I create a sentence that is 15 words long that frames my overall goal. I expand that out into 5 sentences. Then.... I invite some friends over and I run a tabletop game based on it. Come up with all kinds of cool music, watch players wreck my ideas, develop interesting characters and create all kinds of neat scenes. 

Then I use my inspiration from that to flush out the rest of my book and start writing. 
Portrait Christopher Huang · Author · edited about 2 years ago
One technique that has worked for me in the past is to ask people to each supply me with one known character from history, literature, pop culture, or whatever. Then I make new characters inspired by these: they’ve all got to exist in the same universe and in the same time period, after all, and they’ve got to be sufficiently "my own" and not obvious copies of their source material. (I sometimes find that the less I know about the suggested character, the better.)

Then I throw them all together and see what sort of story emerges.

I’ll admit it doesn’t always work. It’s been over a year, and I’m still sitting on a short story that should theoretically involve Saladin, Julie d’Aubigny, Maggie Tulliver, and Incitatus ... or at least, vaguely similar characters in vaguely similar situations. (I dunno ... the honourable leader of the opposition, a sword-wielding opera singer, the highly intelligent daughter of impoverished gentry, and a political puppet...? What kind of story is that?)
Picture Thomas J. Arnold · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 2 likes
Gonna have to repost my answer from a similar question some months back.

Step 1: Ideas pop into my head & proceed to pester me incessantly. At this point there is quite a community of ideas rabble rousing up there.

Step 2: Write. Preferably in an area with both crowds and beer so I can be antisocial in a otherwise social setting.
I tried outlining when I first started writing, but I found I couldn't really work from an outline and just really have to let a story come out how it wants to come out. More of a Dionysian approach than most, but its the only method that works for me.

Step 3: Edit.
Repeat step 3 at least two times to fix all of the dumbest errors made due to the aforementioned beer in step 2.

Step 4: Force a close friend(s) I can trust to be critical to read it and rip it apart.

Step 5: repeat step 3 while muttering curses about my mean friends. 

Step 6-9: repeat steps 4 & 5 with slightly growing confidence and diminishing curses.

So to sum that up, complete pantser aided by alcohol followed by pretty rigorous(and hopefully extensive) self-editing.  Really I should look into expanding that pool of beta readers since the number I can rely on to actually get back to me with feedback has dwindled to 1.
Img 0137 p bw C. Brennecke · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 1 like
@G. Derek Adams I can't imagine not! XD
Ghost G. Derek Adams · Author · added about 2 years ago
Wow! I have to write in chronological order or I'd completely lose my way - I can't imagine working on both ends of the snake at the same time.
Img 0137 p bw C. Brennecke · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 2 likes
Consistency and structure aren't exactly my friends, but even with my chaos-loving ways I do have some tendencies. 
I approach writing the same way I approach my artwork (I'm a painter), meaning that I constantly switch back and forth between two modes; inspiration dumping and self-editing/study. Inspiration dumping is getting all of the ideas that pop into my head down on paper. This is usually the characters, certain aspects of the world, most of the dialogue, some of the descriptions, many of the plot points. Self-editing/study is when I step back and apply some critical thinking. The timelines, themes, how things relate to each other, how things function, making lists and diagrams, and anything that might be missing. Research also falls into this category. I don't do research for every project, but when I do, I become obsessive.
The other tendency that carries over from painting is that I "work the whole canvas," meaning that I write the beginning, middle, and end concurrently. 
Ghost G. Derek Adams · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 3 likes
I start with the basic shape of the story, some major signposts I want to hit, a grab bag of characters and then I go exploring. I generally have a couple of sticky notes floating around  and a sheet of graph paper with a list of concepts, events, ideas - connected by intersecting lines - more of a thought-map then a real outline. Beyond that it's limited 'pantsing' until I get a workable draft. I don't know about you guys, but my best ideas are in my fingers not my brain. AMOD exists within an established framework and history of my fiction, so there are a lot of limits and rules to what can and cannot happen that aren't immediately apparent. But within that there's plenty of room for weird cul de sacs of plot, fight scenes and such.

I'm actually loitering on the entry point of a new novel that doesn't take place in that framework and its surprising how exciting and terrifying it is.

162980 10150347252315626 6077063 n Joseph Terzieva · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 2 likes
I'm enjoying the answers. If you know any other writers not mentioned that might want to give input, mention them in.
Jim final 3 Jim McDoniel · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 1 like
I'm a planner. I have a huge backlog of ideas, so usually I'll have had lots of time to work out plot points and endings while I'm writing other pieces. In the event of an assignment or something more spur of the moment, I spend my days in my head plotting out beats and coming up with dialogue. (I once missed an important announcement in my writing group, because assignments had just been given out and I was already mentally in the middle of my episode.) As I go, I'll  jot down these ideas in a notebook I keep in my back pocket at all times to be referenced later when I sit down and write, though again, this is often days later and I will have spent more time playing out the scene again and again before I get there.
Close up A.C. Weston · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 3 likes
Hah, I'm a disaster. 

I just start writing. No planning. I generally have an idea of a really cool scene, and then I write it. More stuff comes to mind and I write that, too. Lots of writing, lots of thinking. 

I usually know the basic story I want to write - the barest of bare bones of story beats - but the story will change dramatically based on what happens spontaneously as I write. It is fun and sometimes frustrating, since I'll do things like write... let me see... 4K words in one direction, and then realize that the story would  be better if the entire situation changed and I have to cut all that. I do that a lot.

I do a ton of planning around characters, though - early on I made a diagram with all five main characters and forced myself to come up with two things each pairing had in common, and two reasons for them to hate each other. Then I made sure to create a relationship arc for each pairing. Nothing happens in my book that doesn't affect the characters/their relationships, and I tried really hard to make every single step of progress in the book happen because of the nature of my characters and their decisions/actions.

In my defense, if I didn't just let myself write, I don't think I'd be able to come up with the most fun stuff. (Maybe I would, though?) I'm going to try to do a detailed outline for the second book before I write too much of it, in the hopes that I'll avoid writing in the wrong direction so often the next time around. 
Picture Amanda Orneck · Author · added about 2 years ago
Well, I'm a snowflake planner (or at least half of one), so when I start thinking of a story, I write out a logline and then build three disasters that will frame the story. Then I have a long think about the characters and what sort of person they are. Their personality builds out the plot and the world that they need to inhabit, so I dive back into building the plot structure some more until I reach a point where I need to refine the characters before I can proceed. It's all very circular, but by the end I have a spreadsheet listing the scenes, a bible listing all the major characters and their attributes, and a set of character descriptions that help drive the plot.

Picture Kelsey Rae Barthel · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 1 like
I like to plan out the entire story before I write anything so I can limit plot holes. I start by writing down point form what events I want to have in the story. Then I figure out a time line and work on it event by event. 
Picture JF Dubeau · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 1 like
Usually I start with the artsiest of disorganized thoughts. I'll have a basic 'cool' idea for a plot or conceit that I want to turn into a plot. A few characters. Maybe a couple of set pieces. I'll usually take a few long walks with music blasting in my ears and I'll just think and sort and get things figured out.

Once that's done I'll start with the notes. I used to be all over the place but now I tend to put all my ideas into Storyist. I'll create some character bio sheets, location and setting sheets, I'll write down a basic synopsis of the whole story, etc.

I'll then look at the synopsis and divide it into acts. The number kind of depends on the complexity of the story. Then I'll divide the acts into chapters and each chapter into sections. What I try to do is have each section be it's own little story within the chapters and each chapter a story within its act. That way I know that each part of the story has a purpose that serves the whole.

Finally, I schedule some time and I write the first draft. I'll do NaNoWriMo or plan out a couple of months, etc. The idea is to vomit out a first draft as soon as possible. No self editing. No cleaning up. Just writing and adding bio and setting sheets and notes to my files as I go along.

Once I have a first draft, I'll go through a pretty lengthy self-editing and rewriting process. A lot of these sections and chapters that were 'guaranteed' to not be useless get thrown out or rewritten or moved to another part of the book.

Then it's off to beta readers. Then back to self-editing. Then I try to find someone else to help me edit it for real.

Now that I'm putting all of this down, turns out I have a pretty strict protocol to how I structure writing a book. Might want to shake that up a little. Especially if others have cool ideas to contribute here.
162980 10150347252315626 6077063 n Joseph Terzieva · Author · edited about 2 years ago · 1 like

And anyone else I forgot. What steps do you take when you are writing a new story. How much planning? Any special techniques. What's the process like?