Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Part I: How I Write, WIP '09 #3

image I often catch myself saying I write this way or that way, which is funny, because every story writes differently. And usually, my memory is rather clouded.

So I thought I'd keep track of how I really write this time.

I started out with the mood and setting: I wanted it to be dark and gothic. (My obsession with Jane Eyre is never-ending.) It is a stand-alone, which is something I haven't done in two or three years.

Then I got a flash of a scene: The main character is a new bride, and the first scene I got was her coming down for breakfast, a complete stranger to her husband. He is comfortable in his house; she is not. (Yeah, it's so been done a million times. So what? My turn.)

After writing about 500 words, I figured out their names. Then I figured out the emotional arc of the story. (A journey of trust.)

From that, I figured out the outer sort of plot that would mirror the emotional arc of the story. (Well, it's gothic. A spooky servant, a ghost, a murder, and all sorts of strange goings-on. Sort of a given.)

Her fear of those "outer" circumstances will cause her to doubt her husband, as well as doubt her trust in him, and doubt her new life.

(Yes, I know... it's all been done before. I'm sticking to the basics for privacy of pseudonym, LOL.)

So that's all I start with. I'm 1,000 in, but this story didn't start with my usual pre-thinking, so I'll need to delete about 300 or 400 and focus. (That is odd for me.)

image Then I'll start planting all sorts of hooks that will get all this going. I try, as best as I'm able, to litter my first chapters with a ton of hooks. I like to think that the first chapter contains the roots of the entire novel, whether through hooks, foreshadowing, set-up, questions, little mysteries, whatever.

I don't need a big NY-able hook, so that makes my life considerably easier. In the next day or two, I'll probably finish the first chapter. (I better, at least!) I'll also set my mind to imagining in the skins of my characters during every free moment I have to daydream. Amidst shower time, driving time, falling asleep time, cooking time, eating time, I'll probably spend over a couple hours a day living in their skin.

So how do you start a story? Always the same way? Differently? How did your latest story begin? Do you remember?

21 bonus scribbles:

Edie 4/01/2009 11:45:00 PM  

Spy, your new book sounds lovely. I usually start with a premise that excites me, then I find characters that will fit it. (Though I might have a character in mind before the premise.) Then I write short character sheets and notes about the direction I want it to go. And then I go. LOL

With my wip, I ended up doing character work after I wrote half. The book has a lot of plot and the characters hadn't grown. Now I have growth and I'm happy with it.

G 4/02/2009 06:03:00 AM  

The way I used to start my most of my short stories, was to write a false ending, then spend the rest of the story writing up to, then beyond that false story.

Mostly though it seems that I stary my stories with a conversation.

Bevie 4/02/2009 09:45:00 AM  

Your knowledge of writing so exceeds mine I feel silly.

Most of my stories will start with a scene. Sometimes it will be the end. That works best because it gives me a stake in the sand to aim for.

Sometimes it is the story's climax. Sometimes it is near the beginning (hardest, because then I need to come up with a purpose).

All of the scenes are emotionally important to me or I cannot write them.

A few stories have started with maps, and a few others with photographs, or pictures of some kind. Some come from listening to music.

At the beginning I don't write carefully. I just try to get everything out there to see.

Good luck with your WIP. Sounds interesting.

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 09:57:00 AM  

Oh that's neat, Edie. It's interesting to me how the writing of every book is a little different, and how every writer writes differently.

I love the "go" part, LOL!

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 09:58:00 AM  

Wow, G, that's fascinating. A lot of writers write the ending first, and that's something that's always intrigued me. Some day I mean to try it that way.

Jenna 4/02/2009 10:05:00 AM  

I think I've started every story different. Sometimes it's an image that gets me started other times it's starts with a sort of narration going on in my head that write down. I rarely start with just a character but forming or imagining the key characters is usually step #2 for me.

My latest story started with an image, one that popped in my head. So I started wondering why, what-if, you know all those writerly questions that get us hopping on a story, and pretty soon the shell of story was forming in my head. But it just gets harder and more complicated from here on out.

Great post! I see in the title it says 'Part 1'...I'm looking forward to more :).

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 10:15:00 AM  

Bevie, what a great way to describe it. I discover the "stakes in the sand" next.

I'm not knowledgeable about writing. Just trying to keep track of how I write this tiem!

Eric Mayer 4/02/2009 10:17:00 AM  

It's hard for me to say exactly how my writing starts. When Mary and I collaborate I guess we begin with what we figure is a neat concept. For our first Byzantine book we had noticed that some people placed the reign of King Arthur, historically, around the same time as that of Justinian and we thought what if a knight came to Constantinople in search of the holy grail?

But then we try to plot a story out. I always try to make the story up and then write it. I never tried to plunge in and try to make it up as I go along. I guess it might be an interesting experiment.

Melanie Avila 4/02/2009 11:54:00 AM  

I start with an idea, generally an opening, and just go from there. I'm horrible at describing setting so it usually opens with a character doing something. Not too exciting, but there you have it.

Charles Gramlich 4/02/2009 12:12:00 PM  

Interesting to see someone's process like this. Did you find the exercise helpful for yourself?

Anissa 4/02/2009 12:56:00 PM  

I usually have the idea first. The characters show up later, and don't really pick up their uniqueness until I'm well into the story. Then in revisions, they get beefed up. Or they change altogether. But the beginning definitely sets the tone for me. If I can't get a good grasp on that first chapter, I know I'm not ready to write the story.

Great topic.

Ello 4/02/2009 02:00:00 PM  

That's pretty awesome to get a glimpse into your writing mind. Very cool. I am a a big outliner and I tend to work very linearly. However, I also tend to skip over and move on if a scene is really not working.

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 04:42:00 PM  

Jenna, every book does feel different, doesn't it? I think that's what is fun about writing. It's always a new journey.

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 04:44:00 PM  

Eric, it is neat. I have tried to plot out a story before, but the ensuing mess is taking me over a year to write, LOL. I don't know why.

So it might be fun to just wing it once, I'm not sure plotters and pantsers can be any way other than how they are, LOL! :-)

But it's definitely worth a try! I like changing things up. Knocks new creativity loose.

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 04:45:00 PM  

Melanie, my mouth popped open for real when I read your comment. Where on earth did you get that idea? The vivid setting is one of the things I remember loving about your story.

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 04:45:00 PM  

Charles, not yet, but I'm hoping to! After I bore you guys with the process of a couple WIPs, I'm hoping to understand my own process better, you know? :-)

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 04:46:00 PM  

Anissa, I'm a first chapter person, too. Once I've got that first chapter nailed, I'm home free!

Well, almost. At least until I hit The Wall.

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 04:47:00 PM  

Ello, I do the skip thing, too, but I don't outline. Well, I have outlined, and it was interesting. It didn't work out so well for me, but it was definitely interesting!

G 4/02/2009 05:54:00 PM  

I don't think that you'll be boring about it.

If anything, it will be interesting to see how another writer's mind works with writing a novel.

Furthermore, talking about it (at least for me in my blog), has really opened up a world of interesting questions to ask myself about in the process.

Sort of like thinking out loud and getting the answers before you finish thinking out loud.

spyscribbler 4/02/2009 07:16:00 PM  

G, it's totally thinking out loud for me! I'm hoping it will help me. I feel like it will, although I have no idea why, LOL.

If it gets others thinking, cool. If others share their process and give me ideas, even cooler!

Robin 4/02/2009 07:26:00 PM  

I love the description of how you write! It's very cool. In fact, I like everyone's comments. So interesting.

I get an idea, start with a scene, write little descriptions about my characters, get overwhelmed at work, and then never get back to it again.

It's my plan and I'm stickin' to it.