Some of us write just to write, scribbling words on a page out of love and letting our imaginations soar. Others like to take a more planned approach. We outline, create character sketches full of back story, plan out every detail of the town, and the details go on and on...
I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an obsessive planner. I create outline after outline after outline until the story is sound. But then as I pound out the words on the keyboard, I always seem to get lost in the story and then before I know it, I’m at a new place I had never before imagined.
This can be a great thing, but, like all organization freaks, I find myself pulling back, and again, I'm back at the drawing board trying to find a way to have this new development work in the story.
After hours, days and even weeks of frustration, trying to balance out my obsessive and creative sides, I came up with a compromise which has led to a writing process that keeps both my personalities happy.
I write every day no matter what. I always start out the first 30 minutes with my imagination, letting the words come out however they please. This is my warm up, getting those creative juices flowing. Usually I pick one of the minor characters within the story I’m writing to play the lead. I never fail to be surprised to see some of the crazy things those minors do when they have the spotlight. It gives them a chance to shine and gives me new inspiration.
Then I like to have a coffee or 5 (I drink at least three pots a day). While I sip on the delicious java, I read over my little sprint and see if any of it is usable in my present or maybe a future story. If a new story idea comes to mind from the warm up, or I think of an awesome place to add it in the current story, I take 20 to 30 minutes to jot it down, if not I move on, checking out where I left off on my outline. Then I take a few minutes to review the last few paragraphs from the day before to get my bearings.
This is where my writing process takes, what I like to think of as a designer feel. Like most, I write scene by scene, breaking the book down into sections. However, I don’t stop there. I strip it down and write every scene in sections, dialogue, emotions, narrative, and then setting. And by splitting it up into steps my organizational side stays content.
My favorite thing to write is dialogue so this is where I always start. I will sketch out the whole scene with just the dialogue. I find that when I’m only thinking about what is actually being said and nothing else the dialogue is more natural, not forced, and overall, original.
But the neat thing about this is, when the dialogue is done, the emotions are easy to fill in since I already have a great sense of exactly what is being said.
At this point, I read through everything again, filling in narrative and thinking of the perfect place for this scene to happen. I find setting can be tricky, which is probably why I leave it to the end. I really over think this part. Would an 18-year-old boy throw a punch in his own living room when his parents could be in the kitchen? What if a 16-year-old girl was being picked on at school? Would she cry in public or would she run to the bathroom? Where is the best place for that first kiss? Should it be a romantic setting or did it just happen at a continence store?
However, in the end, I have a great scene; my imagination has been let loose and my fixation with organization has been kept satisfied, and then I get to start the process all over again.