1. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Agile vs. Waterfall Novel Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by SRCroft, Sep 18, 2012.

    I am wondering what approach each individual uses when it comes to their story creation. I use Product Management terms because those are two common ways to work, but I'm sure many of you have unique styles. Waterfall is basically what it sounds like, a flood of information, everything at once--no retooling until you have a finished version. Agile is more like retool as you go, a systematic frame work--more freeform for quality, yet more time consuming in terms of due date.

    Generally, my approach starts simply with a feeling / idea which I cultivate into a one word theme. I dwell on that theme and how it can relate overall story, but also how it relates to the protagonist and antagonist. It needs to bleed into the tone of the book--so to me thats the catalyst for starting. I try to start out structured, developing ideas, but usually the characters throw that out the window and start to write themselves, I really try to think of two things every step--is there tension(conflict-reaction-resolution) and what would this character really do. On occasion this brings me to a path I didn't expect or makes me realize a catalyst is needed to pass my character through a literary doorway of no return.

    I spend way too much time going back to retool structure and dialog instead of finishing a draft, so one thing I try to do is write a summary of each chapter (whether it gets the boot later or not). Once I reach that chapter I expand on it, and expand and force myself to move on.

    So I like to hear other approaches too. Some people, professionals included, are extremely structure--others free but rhythmical--and some have great success with super free form styles. What do you do?
     
  2. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    I follow some extreme structure, I plot for a month before writing one word. Then I take the first draft, try to figure out how to make the plot more ''dramatic'', I plot for another month, then rewrite the new version. By that time, all I have to fix is style, and grammar, and a little bit of editing and I'm done. It takes a year to have something I can be proud of.

    I start a new project, plot for a month, then come back to the first story, make sure I haven't forgotten anything, work one it for another month, and then go back to the second story.

    It's the endless cycle of my writing life.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm sure there are quite a few threads about this already, but I come up with an idea, or a character, or both - and start writing. I edit/revise as I go, each thing that happens depends on what's already happened; each chapter is checked by betas when it's done, I do a final edit/revise, and then move on to the next chapter. Rinse and repeat. After I type "The End", one final read through to polish. Done.
     
  4. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    So from what you say you write in a linear fashion since whatever happens moves the story forward. Not saying it's true, but you didn't make it sound like you enjoy the process much. Rinse and Repeat and plopping The End doesn't sound vested. That or your response is poised in that fashion because you didn't like my thread. It does sound like you have a rhythm to your work, how many books have you published since you developed this method?
     
  5. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I totally free wheel with my writing. Kate will tell me a nugget or two from her life, and then it's a matter of figuring what happened. As it's told to me, then it gets put down on paper. It's the revision and rewriting process where I tend to use a process.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I enjoy my process immensely. The response may have sounded rather bored because, as I stated, there are quite a few threads about this already. As to published, I'm still working on my first original novel; I have quite a few book-length fanfics on my website, however; I honed my skills and process on those. Actually, quite a few published authors write this way; one of many methods to choose from. :)
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That is not what waterfall is. Waterfall simply means you go to the next phase when the previuous phase reaches its high water mark, and the only way you "return" to a phase is by beginning a new cycle. The phases in waterfall run from requirements through design, to construction, then testing, then release.

    Similar processes allow looping back to previous states, but are still oriented to major release cycles,

    Agile is a process to manage similar cycles to a smaller set of changes, with a short, fixed cycle duration.

    All of these are formalized for team development, however. Writing is a solitary endeavor that doesn't need the kinds of communication and documentation that product development requires.

    The only thing I would take from product management is the realization that there are phases to writing. The planning phase can be a structured outline, or it could mean closing your eyes and musing about the progression of the story. Proofreading is comparable to a testing phase, and requires a different mindset than the planning and writing phases.
     
  8. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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    I tried the structured method. To organize my ideas, set an outline, but i found myself eventually ignoring the outline as the characters themselves decided what was going to happen. The MC does what he has to do in any given situation because that is the man he is. The secondary MC, supporting and eventually supplanting the MC, she flows like water, and even though she can sound simple at times, there is no doubt that she goes where she wills. Every single person in this world we live on has their own set of personal principles that they live by, or ignore according to the person they are. So I write with that idea in mind. An assassin will have little use for a heart or heart felt emotions, and likewise a mothering type will be kind and loving, with little use for dark or emotionless behaviors. If your characters do not have enough strength to assert themselves, to force the story to unfold as it should without the use of divine wills pushing them where they would not go otherwise, then maybe they are the wrong characters for the story.

    My main project has four main characters as any given time, and sometimes its down to one or two, depending on the section. The cornerstone never leaves until book 2, but he picks up a few companions on the way. A typical dark character, bowman, and a magic user. Problem is, as I wrote the story, the bowman was needed in the beginning to move the story along, but he began a hindrance as it progressed. The magic user was useful, and a necessary evil to move the plot, and a way to introduce the main caster halfway through. The main caster has a female bodyguard that replaces the bowman, doing a mighty job in the process, and brings necessary elements in at the right times.

    You might say, in essence, that I have no plan at all. I don't know what I'll write today, or tomorrow for that matter. When I open the chapter I'm working on, I see a part that doesn't fit, so I edit it or remove it and figure out something that does fit.

    The story was a rope with so many knots that it was hard to get through. I've been unraveling the knots and straightening the story so that even during a twist, turn, or sharp corner, there are no knots to stop the reader cold. No plan and the story is developing nicely, thanks mostly to the characters deciding what to do when it was time to do it.

    Hmm, did I get off track? Maybe I should plan my comments. :)
     
  9. Program
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    Program Member

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    I find writing should not be limited by a product management process. For example, waterfall:

    You have these phases, you cannot move onto the next phase until you finish the last phase, and so on, and you have to document all this and that. Suppose you had a really great idea - maybe a beautiful piece of symbolism and you know exactly how to phrase it elegantly. Using waterfall, if you are still in your outline, you cannot write that symbolism down. Then, you forget it a day later and too bad for you. You lost something amazing. With writing, it can be very good to simply write what you want. If you really want to write the ending, but you haven't started the first chapter yet, you should not be restrained by something rigid like the waterfall method.

    Agile is probably an okay analogy, but not that good. One probably should not compare writing to something like product management, which is more like building a house. Agile is iterative, and novel writing is similar to building on what you already have (chapter 1, then chapter 2 - but not restrained to that). But in writing, unexpected things might occur. With software engineering and product management, you are supposed to know everything (or nearly everything) that is going to be done, or else it's not too great engineering (you don't build a house without knowing exactly how you're going to build it). In writing, you rarely see the end of the path, and tons of unexpected things pop up (unless your outline is basically the novel itself) - which is not supposed to happen in product management. Maybe on day 178, you have a great addition to something you wrote on page 10. Well using software engineering rules, you really should not change it, unless it's "bugged," but it's not - it's just a cool feature, so you can't add that in because a change in one small area might affect the rest of the product. In writing, it's probably better to change it than not.

    If you really want to see "Use Agile" or "Use Waterfall," I'd say Agile because I find it better than Waterfall.
     
  10. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    I don't really think anything should be limited. Like I mentioned I try to start with a process which usually gets thrown out--I really try to let the characters lead, however, when its pinnacle to a plot point it opens up the realization that the character would need a strong catalyst. I was more curious about different people and their approach. I've met some writers that are extremely historical and do tons of research and have massive structure in place for their writing style. I've also met people who get and idea and its spills out like water onto the page. I think both are awesome and have different audiences that appreciate their approach--I do think it effects the outcome.

    Really the only try and true process in the world seems to me the magic number. They say for musicians in playing 10,000 hours-- that tends to be when the career breakthrough happens. I disagree with some who just see writing as a gift--which it is and can be--but the execution is a craft. It takes a lot of work to perfect a craft, the ideas can be intuitively incredible but the execution can be terrible. You can be attractive but if you have no social ability, you wont connect with others. Charismatic writers seem to be the cohesive nature of a gifted mind and hard work. I think most people here would fall under the idea of giving effort and refining their craft, else they wouldn't be trying to learn from each other.
     
  11. randomme1
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    randomme1 Member

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    My writing process is a bit hectic. I get an idea, either out of the blue or from song I heard or some story I read, and I just run with it. I start making a main character. Then a FEW secondary characters. That is about as structured as it gets. Then I get ideas for scenes in my story from anywhere. If I am watching some action movie, or reading a very great novel, and I come across a great scene that just blows my mind. Then I think to myself, "Oh wow, that would be a great thing to have in my story!", then I write it down for later. This goes on for a while, until I have a mess of great scenes or situations for my book. Then I start piecing it together.

    For example: I was reading some fantasy novel, I came to a part where two bitter enemies had to work together. I know that this is a pretty common plot element, but for some reason when I read it in one of my favorite novels it just kick starts my mind and I come up with a great way to put it in my book. Same thing for when I am listening to a good song. I listen to the lyrics and I picture inside my head that this is the soundtrack for a chapter that I have not written yet. Then my mind switches on, and I have another idea for a scene in my story.

    Then it's just about putting these inspired events into order, and adding a few scenes I made up myself. That's my process! I'm sure there a few others out there who come up with ideas like me.
     

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