1. dogboon
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    dogboon Member

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    Actually writing a novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by dogboon, Jul 23, 2010.

    Everybody has their individual methods to write a novel (for the purposes of my query i mean something more substantial than a short story) but what generally are the methods that YOU use.

    I have always had the impression that (published/professional) authors get the idea for a story and pretty much sit down and start writing it from the first line until after a matter of months send off the manuscript and have it printed.

    I wish I had this ability. I have formulated a very technical method lately, which entails a long process of developing the bones of a plot in every direction that i feel it needs to go, making detailed notes on everything that comes to my mind, slowly building up the plan with meat. Usually many scenes had already been expanded upon in the earliest stages. Just so nothing is lost in the aeons of time each chapter has a contents of acts printed out, and each act has a contents of scenes, each scene has a detailed list containing vital ideas for me to include when I come to write it. The rule is as long as I include what is written in the contents within the scene I have free artistic rights to play around as much as i want.

    I love the first draft part. I also have discovered a curious phenomenon as I write, the story itself deepens and presents new twists and turns that work so well with the plot altogether. Upon completion of the first draft, the inevitable second draft and edit begin, though an editing occurs throughout the first draft process. This is where dialogue and style is tuned. Then upon a third draft I like to get an overview to tamper with pacing and to see if I have captured the general feel that I intended originally.
     
  2. gabelpa
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    gabelpa Banned

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    For me, I try to know the beginning, middle, end, and significant events, then write the connective bits, flesh things out and add in people.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Hmmm. My way?

    My way is frenetic and disorganized. My way almost never, ever starts at the very beginning of the story. No, my muse revels in holding back the opening from me until I am well into writing. Often my muse lets me think I have started at the beginning and then says, "Ha, ha! Only fooling! Chapter 3 is the real opening." My way comes in fits and starts, weeks of words pouring from my head and months of nothing so dry as to make the Atacama Desert look like a lush oasis.

    That is my way. *shrug*
     
  4. bumblebot
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    bumblebot Senior Member

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    I start with a list of major events summed up in one sentence. I rewrite the list a number of times, each time adding more detail and more minor events, eventually including snippets of dialogue and pertinent descriptions I want to include.

    Then I start the actual draft, with the other document open to help keep me focused.
     
  5. Michael Davis
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    Michael Davis Member

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    With my first novel five years ago, I started with a detailed outline and worked like a beaver till I had a draft. Now that I've written 6 novels and five shorts, I find the ideas come and go in a more fragmented sense. At any time, I am actually working on three or four stories at once. When ever a scene, idea, or chapter flashes into my mind, I put down the one I'm working and capture the new vision.

    Yeah, its a bit fragmented, but the ideas come more frequently and I don't want to miss em. Only exception was when I was undergoing cancer treatments for 5 months during which period nothing flowed through my brain except chemo fog and crazy dreams. Now I'm back to drafting three MS and another short.

    Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
    Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

    Blind Consent, “The answers are buried in the secrets of the past.”
    Forgotten Children, “Only Sara knows the truth.”
    Tainted Hero, “Sometimes good people do bad things.”
    Veil of Deception, “Sometimes truth cuts deeper than a lie.”
    The Treasure, “A lonely heart can impair one’s judgment.”
    Rimfire, "Some things are better left unknown."
    Essence, “How far would you go?”
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This kind of thing used to bother me, too. But I remember when I was taking a mathematics course in university and the professor had just shown us a particularly complex but elegant proof. Everyone in the class reacted by saying things like "How could anybody be so brilliant that they could think of that proof right off the bat?" That level of genius made us all feel so inadequate. But the professor reassured us, saying (of the mathematician who discovered the proof) "He DIDN'T think of it right off the bat. It may have taken him ten years and a thousand mistakes to come up with this. But the textbooks only show what works, the final result. The books never show the years of work and false starts and errors made along the way."

    That was very valuable to me. The same is true for a novel. Nobody (well, hardly anybody) is so brilliant that they can just start with the first sentence of a novel and write all the way to the last and it's all perfect in the first draft. Writers, especially the best ones, revise and revise and revise, working over their material until they get it right. We, the readers, only see the masterpiece that results; we never see the hopelessly-awful first draft.

    I've said this before in another thread: I start my novels by having a sense of setting and a character or two, nothing more. I start writing what I call "test scenes" which I don't intend to be part of the final work, they're only there to help me learn about my characters and about the world they live in, and to help me establish a tone. After I've written a few of these scenes, a plot idea begins to emerge and I start filling in more scenes that fit the plot. At this point I'm not interested in starting at the beginning and writing through to the end, I'm just gathering material. Eventually, I have enough to begin what I think of as a first draft: I actually start writing Chapter One and go through to the end. I treat the original test scenes as notes, and as fragments of an outline. This is probably not the most efficient way to work, but efficiency isn't my goal.
     
  7. Langadune
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    Langadune Member

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    For me... it kinda writes itself. I have the story idea and the characters and a few of the conflicts that will arise, besides that, the characters tend to tell me how the stories go. They way they react often dictates what happens next and sometimes things happen that even surprise me!
     
  8. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I go for the swedish saying on how to get a book written.

    "All ways that gets something done is good ones, except for the bad ones."

    If you get it done your way that is a good way. It might be different or unusual but as long as it don't hurt someone or cause unnecessary trouble it a good way to do it.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually I pretty much sat down and wrote it once I worked out whether I was doing it in first or third person. But I am happy to delete almost an entire novel and start again to work a new idea into the story.

    I am about to start novel number 2, but I already have the story planned I suspect the problem will come when I run out of stories in my head, but I am finding each story gives me new ideas, and I am now working on a collection of historical fiction short stories as well.
     
  10. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    I write different scenarios for my stories, then add in background details, the characters involved in these scenarios, some dialogue and then put it together like a puzzle.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    except for the last three words there, that's pretty much how they do it... and how i work, as well... after the first draft is done, then comes the nit-picky editing and rewrites... and the final polishing edit... which can all take as long as [or longer] than getting the story down on paper to begin with...

    when writing a book-length work, at some point an outline of sorts may be needed, to keep from getting tangled up in time lines and subplots... and for many works, research may have to be done at various points in the writing process, which will also interrupt the free flowing of the story from mind to paper/screen... so, it's not quite as simple as you envision, really... and not all that easy...

    as for those last three words ['have it printed'], there's a lot more to getting the ms published than that... as you can learn from the many threads here on the publishing process...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  12. constant scribbler
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    constant scribbler Member

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    I'm still working on my first novel which I have dreamed about for amost five years now. The first idea is so far from the one I have now it's crazy. I think of it as upgrading. Each time I get a new inspiration it's an upgrade. I do run into numerous writing blocks so then I take a break and do some other creative activity or write a different story just to keep in practice. Finally I have something I like and I am working hard to get it done. For me the orginization and right mood set are the hardest. I am constantly getting inspirations. It's hard because whenever I am in a bad mood I end up killing a character (which can work in my favor). It's a lot of hard work but it is still my favorite thing to do.
     
  13. Arvik
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    Arvik Member

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    When I start, I know the beginning, I (think) I know the end, and I know significant plot points along the way. For my first novella, I had an outline, but I wrote scenes in whatever order I felt like, and then stitched them together. It worked, but I've since found I prefer the "start at the beginning and write to the end" approach.

    What other methods work for me? Trying to write every day. It doesn't matter if it's awful; you can't edit a blank page, after all.
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    True, and very well put.
     
  15. Zieki
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    Zieki Member

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    I'm just getting up the courage to actually start a novel-length work, so I have no tried-and-true methods, but I have found it easier if I have some notes / loose outline to keep me on track. One of my main problems is having characters who are too similar - as friends, sure, they should have some similarities but they should be unique and different just like all people are. I need to take some time to really write down, develop, and explore my different characters to see what makes them different and worth having in the story besides just a body to fill up space.
     
  16. josh23
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    josh23 Banned

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    For me i start with a simple beginning, and end. I dont generally decide how the conflict will be solved, or key events. I begin writing the story with one character at a time. I base their actions off of what i want, or think their personality should be and let it grow itself. If need be i add, or drop characters to eventually reach the desired ending.

    Hope this helps
     
  17. BlueWolf
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    BlueWolf Banned

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    Much like others here, I knew the beginning and the end, and had a fair idea of the middle (it is split into two parts). On top of that, I had plenty of ideas about what would happen here and there - not necessarily knowing which characters would be involved though.

    So, I started writing it, and sort of knew the story, as if recalling a dream. I wrote the first bit with relative ease, because I knew exactly what would be happening, and then looked at the first idea, and wrote myself towards it, keeping in mind the next idea, and so on.

    I have mentioned before it is much like a road map: A to B, with stop-offs at several places, although occasionally you do end up in the ditch, meaning you have to pull yourself out of it to get back on the road.
     
  18. Ragdoll
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    Ragdoll Member

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    Whenever I get a great idea, I have it pretty much worked out in my head. Everything is so clear to me, from the beginning and all the way to the end. So when I start writing I write a lot at the start, but when I get to the mid-part I suddenly have no idea what to write. So I skip to the end, but when that's written down I still don't know how to do the story between beginning and end. So I kinda give up on the story. Happens every time :p
     
  19. NovaD
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    NovaD New Member

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    I'm currently working on my first novel and have been caught in an early rewrite, but the way it's been going so far is that I started with a scene, met the characters and from them came to know the major points of where they will be going. After that I started from the beginning and started working from point to point. It's like combined fate and free will - there are places where I know the characters are going, must go, but the way they get there is up to them.
    Of course, I've been working on this thing for 3 years (on and off) and I'm only 80,000 words in and nowhere near finished, so what do I know? ;)
     

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