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Starting A New Story


Brayon

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When you set out to tell a new story, what do you do first?

 

1. Do an outline first of what you want? ie. world type, character type, starting point, end point

 

2. Develop the Main Character concept?

 

3. Free-form write to get started?

 

4. Slap down a Title, write Prologue, & have at it!

 

 

I often start option 2, in the private little stories I write for myself, & a few friends. However, in the story I'm writing for this site (not published as of today), I had a very basic idea, & jumped right in. I'm now a couple of "chapters" in, & I feel like I'm loosing the character element.

 

So, what's your process when you set out?

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I fall somewhere generally between 2 and 3.

 

My work is very character driven, and generally characters come complete (for me at least) with their own introductions and first scenes. There fore I tend to get a couple thousand words down, then I’ll usually stop and make some notes (sometimes very very basic, sometimes with a bit of structure depending on how long I think the story will end up being), and then I just free-write from there, often through and around various single line ideas which occur to me whilst working (or walking the dog, or in the shower, or cooking dinner) until the characters decide on a conclusion.

 

I never, ever, start a story knowing where and when it's going to end. mostly I get a chapter or two of warning before my fingers type the ending out.

 

Titles come, or they don't, but I certainly don't need one to get writing. The only times I've written a story out of order, doing whichever scenes were there and filling in later, they've both been awful and I've regretted it afterwards.

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I don't wrye well, but I do help Sasha keep straight ewhat he has written. During a longer story like Tiger Winter I tke notes on characters and events as i edit so it is easier to track continuity. my notes end up looking like an outline with a timeline, but it is built as the characters shout at Sasha to type faster.

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Mostly point 2.  I abhor outlines, so I don’t use them if I can help it.  What I do is start with a character/characters, a concept and kind of a general idea of where things are going and start from there.  The thing I enjoy most about writing is seeing where my characters take the story.  I’m more character driven than plot driven, so if my story “stalls out” I usually look back at the characters to see what happened and what needs to be fixed.  

Edited by CassieQ
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If I'm writing something that's more than just a short story. Then I write a general outline of the story and some background on the characters. The outline isn't necessarily long or detailed, nor is it written in stone. 

 

They are important to me because: 1) I have a terrible memory. The outline give mes a place to add small details I may want in a later chapter, as they pop into my head.

 

2) Foreshadowing is easier if you mention something in chapter one, but you can't really remember by the time you need it again in chapter 13. You can refer to your notes, for me it's simpler than have to go back and hunt for it back in chapter one. 

Edited by Mikiesboy
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This falls within the pantser or plotter question, for the most part. I think a lot of us are a mix, and I know I certainly am. It's easy for me to write a short story or novella without anything but an idea and blank Word page, I might do a general idea with a few paragraphs for a novella, especially if it's upwards of 30k+, and for novels I like to do an actual outline. Series get the most information tracking because I want to make sure I keep all the character and plot details correct through the whole thing.

 

Another question that ties into this: How do you keep track of everything if you're a plotter?

 

I have Writeway, which is a lot like Scrivener. I also have used mind map apps/programs in the past to create bubble maps.

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I tried outlines, it just doesn't work for me. Often enough in the end there was nothing left from the original outline but the general idea of the main characters. So it's mostly #2. I don't have a special program/app for keeping track of things. I write down basics about my characters, so that I don't have to re-read whole chapters and keep adding to those. I always try to be more 'professional' but that just isn't me 

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I always try to be more 'professional' but that just isn't me 

 

Me either bud. I try not to worry about it any more - it works for us, eh?

 

As for keeping track of things, I am a notebook kid. I love nice smooth paper and fancy pens. So I keep notes of character descriptions and features, bits of scenery, street addresses. Things like that. On the other hand, I can happily write 20k without making any notes whatsoever, like with Apprentice.

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I can't figure out what number is me :)  .My stories pretty much develop in my head. My characters become real very quickly in there, and I most always have the title as soon as the plot starts to germinate. I don't do outlines either. I'm a notebook kind of guy, and I'll jot things down after I've written... like dates or last names or places... anything pertinent, but I must admit it's a messy notebook before long. I of course write down any research I do. I don't really fly by the seat of my pants, at least for the main direction of the story, but not everything is written in stone, and the keyboard takes me where it wants in each scene, and diversions happen. I kind of live each scene as I write it, and that's the very best part, even if it makes me sob like a baby.

On another note, I might write a chapter in one sitting, and then not read any of it until the next day. I think that is because I don't want to fiddle with it until I can look with fresher eyes.

 

Not sure I've answered your question....

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I don't outline. I develop character(s) then I begin writing following a general idea. As I go along, I make a character list, just listing facts, names, and relation to the story and MCs. That is about as far as I go with outlining anything. Then mentally I keep track of high points that I want to hit with my story before I complete it. Some of those may fall to the wayside and I may add different ones as the story takes shape.

 

I find if I outline that I already have my story written "in my head," and it is difficult for me to then translate that to words and paper.

 

If the writer doesn't seem to have a clear idea of where the story wants to go, you do need to think ahead of where you are - always - whether you outline it in detail or let the story go on as you do. As long as you understand where you want the story to go and keeping track of the characters as you go, I'm not one to really think outlining is necessary.

 

Also, I'm comfortable writing Romance. If I were writing Sci-Fi, or a more expansive genre like Paranormal, Mystery, etc.. where there is always an expansive overall theme or idea than just the characters and the romance, then I'd probably need an outline to keep me on track. I will see when I begin dabbling in those other genres in the future.

 

Do what is comfortable and what gets the writing done. The more you write and listen to criticism, praise, and what your trusted Betas, Editors, and what have you, have to say then you're likely going to improve and find a rhythm with your writing. :)

Edited by Krista
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Thanks everyone. Reading your responses have helped me overcome my derailment. I went back, & looked at the Main Characters, & decided to flesh them out a bit better. I do take notes. I used to do Pen & Paper notes, but now use the One Note feature that came with Windows 10. With it syncing with One Drive, I can access those notes from anywhere. Thank you all again.

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I use multiple choices:  3, then 2, then 1

 

I almost always use some kind of outline, but I'm not very thorough. It starts with a scene in my head for most of my stories, so I write that down and keep going until I'm stumped, which usually happens around the 1k to 2k mark. The protagonist in that scene is the starting fire for me, so I start plotting by thinking about who he is, how he got to where I've imagined him, who his friends are, where he lives, ...

I get the rest of my ideas as I write all of that stuff down, and I branch out from there. What should happen, which characters I'd need for that, what information I should have ready when I start writing, where I'd like to see it end, turning points and action points, the works.

 

I use character and location sheets, lists of special items, personal connection doodles (who knows whom and how are they connected?), and a rather bland plot outline, where I try to summarize my story in short, poignant sentences from the beginning to the end. That comes in handy for me when I pause writing or want to pick up where I left off, because I simply put the parts I've already done in italics and mark the scene I'm working on in bold.

If I need to change later parts of my outline or go off-rail-- which I've allowed myself to do whenever I feel the need-- I simply change the outline too. That helps me think through my new idea and I can find out quickly if my changes will work with the course of the story.

 

This might sound like a lot of work, but it isn't. I spend exactly as much time with plotting and outlining as I like, I don't force myself to fill out my sheets from top to bottom if I don't need or want to. Additional ideas come while I'm actively writing and are added on the fly. My writing software is really helping with this, because I can and always do work with a split window. I have my story on the upper space, and another tab below where I can flip through all the additional information with no hassle.

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I've never written an outline or a bio or anything like that and I've done pretty well so far.

 

Personally, I find that if you start getting too technical during your writing process, you can kill your creative flow.

 

When I'm writing, I have an idea about what the general story will be, then start writing. What happens is that I'm suddenly surprised by what I'm creating and the story writes itself. When I take a break and go back and read what I wrote, I get that 'wow' moment; did I really just write that?!

 

The story should flow naturally from you. That's my two cents worth anyway :read:

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  • 1 month later...

I get an idea for a story I want to write, start writing it, stop, read it back, and say to myself 'it doesn't work' or I just don't like it, whatever, it goes to the graveyard of my hard disk.

 

Sometimes though the story takes off, the characters come alive, I can't write it quick enough, the story is flowing. I have to jot things down, simply because I don't have the time to write it, but don't want to loose the thoughts, the story.

 

So now you're thinking it's probably going great, and you're right, it is. But I worry like crazy now, I worry what you people will think about it, I worry about whether I can actually write that. It's my baby and I love it so much, but it's not without pain, giving birth to a story.

 

And because I like quiet places, I sometimes wonder through the graveyard, re-read those old pieces. Usually, they stay buried, but sometimes I re-write from those old buried ideas.

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I get an idea for a story I want to write, start writing it, stop, read it back, and say to myself 'it doesn't work' or I just don't like it, whatever, it goes to the graveyard of my hard disk.

Sometimes though the story takes off, the characters come alive, I can't write it quick enough, the story is flowing. I have to jot things down, simply because I don't have the time to write it, but don't want to loose the thoughts, the story.

So now you're thinking it's probably going great, and you're right, it is. But I worry like crazy now, I worry what you people will think about it, I worry about whether I can actually write that. It's my baby and I love it so much, but it's not without pain, giving birth to a story.

And because I like quiet places, I sometimes wonder through the graveyard, re-read those old pieces. Usually, they stay buried, but sometimes I re-write from those old buried ideas.

Never delete old thoughts or ideas. After The Past and The Pledge had been partially written years ago I finally came back to them and both were very well received! Some things take longer to stew than others!
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Stories tend to live for a long time in my head before they make it onto the paper. I usually start with a "what is" scenario and then go from there.

 

The other day I thought, "what if the protagonist is illiterate?" Why is he illiterate? Does he want to learn how to read? What does he do for work? What if he meets a gorgeous man? How does the love interest react? What if the love interest is a writer?  :o

 

Once I've figured out the challenge that the main characters have to overcome, I start writing and let them tell me where the story goes. 

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Stories tend to live for a long time in my head before they make it onto the paper. I usually start with a "what is" scenario and then go from there.

 

The other day I thought, "what if the protagonist is illiterate?" Why is he illiterate? Does he want to learn how to read? What does he do for work? What if he meets a gorgeous man? How does the love interest react? What if the love interest is a writer?  :o

 

Once I've figured out the challenge that the main characters have to overcome, I start writing and let them tell me where the story goes. 

Asking who, what, where, why and how are always a good place to start. 

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The other day I thought, "what if the protagonist is illiterate?" Why is he illiterate? Does he want to learn how to read? What does he do for work? What if he meets a gorgeous man? How does the love interest react? What if the love interest is a writer?  :o

 

Once I've figured out the challenge that the main characters have to overcome, I start writing and let them tell me where the story goes.

 

I'm working on my next book, and as chance would have it, the main character doesn't speak, at least not at the beginning, and I'm up to chapter 5. I'd love to tell more, but I don't want to spoil things.

 

Just goes to show 'great minds think alike' :)

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I'm working on my next book, and as chance would have it, the main character doesn't speak, at least not at the beginning, and I'm up to chapter 5. I'd love to tell more, but I don't want to spoil things.

 

Just goes to show 'great minds think alike' :)

 

They do! 

 

That sounds like an interesting premise. I would love to read it when you're done!

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  • 3 months later...
On 11/13/2016 at 1:53 AM, BHopper2 said:

When you set out to tell a new story, what do you do first?

 

1. Do an outline first of what you want? ie. world type, character type, starting point, end point

 

2. Develop the Main Character concept?

 

3. Free-form write to get started?

 

4. Slap down a Title, write Prologue, & have at it!

 

 

I often start option 2, in the private little stories I write for myself, & a few friends. However, in the story I'm writing for this site (not published as of today), I had a very basic idea, & jumped right in. I'm now a couple of "chapters" in, & I feel like I'm loosing the character element.

 

So, what's your process when you set out?

 

I've tried all four of these methods but 3 and 4 simply don't work out well for me. 

 

Generally speaking, what I do is a combination of 1 and 2.  I write out and develop the main characters first--I mean I really think about them. What they look like, what their personalities are like, what they like to wear, where they work (if they work), their views on morality/religion/spirituality/politics/etc. (I like to write in first person, so for the narrating character I almost have to live in his head.)  Then I work up the supporting characters.  Once I have a handle on the main and supporting characters I think about the setting, and make notes of that (including at times in the past actually drawing out rough floor plans of major buildings, and if I use a fictional town as the back drop a street plan [most American cities follow a grid pattern so that's easy]).

 

Finally, I draft up a very rough outline.  I include in it major plot points I want to get out, and even major scenes.  After all that is done then I start writing.

 

It should be noted though I have a rule about the outline, if the Character wants to go in a direction that breaks the outline, I follow the character rather than the outline.  I do, however, try to not let them do that.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's really hard for me to use an outline. When I start a new story it's mostly me sitting down and just writing. Ideas come to me all the time while doing the random mundane things of day to day life. I can be at work and suddenly an idea pops into my head and I try to keep it in my memory, if it's worth writing it will stay there. When I try to plot it out using an outline my writing usually takes a nose dive and I can't get from that starting point to the next point on the outline. Things seem convoluted and like I'm trying too hard to get somewhere the story doesn't want to go. Sometimes I can do an outline after my first draft and tweak where the story is going through the editing phase. 

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In my younger days, when I was posting on Nifty, in the boy band section of all places, I would get an idea, for example, what if Nysnc would get involved with a contract assassin who is trying to stop the assassination of a high ranking political figure?  I would decide on a place, Hershey Pennsylvania, and a time frame.  I never made character notes, I prefer to discover them as the story progresses.  I knew the climax of the story and almost nothing else.  I would do a small outline, more like certain scenes I knew propelled the story forward and then start writing.  

I tend to think of a story for long periods of time before I even start writing.  I almost always write individual scenes that are integral to the plot long before I actually start writing the story.  And all those scenes are always in the last third of the story.  Knowing where I am headed towards keep me moving in that direction.  I rarely get off track as I tend to edit in my head while writing.  And discovering the characters are the parts I love the most.  And since I rarely post anything before the story is finished, I clean up the story in rewrites and working with editors.  

This story i am referring to was actually written in my head while I mowed the grass each week.  It was a ten hour job every week and as I sat on my riding mower I would plot out the next chapter in my head and then spend the next week writing it.  

On a side note, I actually went back not that long ago and read this story again and was pleasantly surprised.  I found numerous plot holes and mistakes but there was a lot of good stuff in that story.  Reading my old work on Nifty, and i'm talking about 2000 and 2001, lit the fire to start writing again.  One of these days I will go into detail about a story I wrote back in 2001, but never posted it, about 15 shipwrecked survivors who landfall on this mysterious island and are marooned for five years.  Needless to say, once Lost came out a few years later, I abandoned the story as it would seem to be a rip off of that amazing show.

So to answer this question, the idea and the end is what starts me on my writing and then I discover everything else as I write.

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@Jason Rimbaud thanks for sharing. I sometimes think about my Aeris story while in the showers in the morning, or when I take my walks at night. On your last point about the story that was a lot like Lost... I actually worry about that with my main Aeris story. With how many "Alien Invader" type SciFi staple stories out there, I'm trying not to cross over into someone else work. It's nice to know others have felt that pinch as well.

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