1. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    Begin with the end in mind? (BONUS! When to rewrite?)

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Vayda, Mar 2, 2009.

    So, first question: When developing your plot or story or outline, if that's your thing, do you know how the story ends before you start writing? By that I mean, do you know that Frodo et al destroy the ring, that Beowulf is killed by a dragon, or whatever your eventual end of the story is?

    To that end, do you even know what the middle is? Or do you start writing when the idea is "A group of hobbits/dwarves/elves/Gandalf have a cursed ring so they leave home to destroy it" or "A group of old friends is forced to leave their hometown and set off to figure out what the new regime is trying to hide"...even if you don't know the answers to those questions yourself?

    Or do you wait until you've outlined/figured out what your overall arch is before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keys)? I'm just curious how everyone else does it - I've never had a plot spring to mind fully formed, and I wonder if that's what keeps me from getting to an end with anything.

    (Edit, for clarity, because I know there is a similar thread about two threads down from me.... I'm not talking about people that begin without a way to wrap everything up at the end, I'm asking if anyone else begins with nothing but a beginning - nothing but that "Call to action" bit of a hero quest. The other thread seems more along the lines of "Who begins with the plot fully formed" vs "Who begins knowing only that Darth Vader is Luke's father at the end"...my question is "Who begins knowing that Luke's gonna leave his Uncle's Farm?")


    Oh, and the bonus content. When do you go back and do total overhauling rewrites of sections? When you know it needs to be done, or do you wait until that section is finished, or the whole story is finished, or do you go back and rewrite as needed?
     
  2. pacmansays
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    pacmansays Senior Member

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    Generally the ending or climax are among the first things i think up after the general concept, i tend to back engineer the story from there. I tend to make really powerful strong endings but my introductions and as striking.

    Then I generally brainstorm loads and loads until i have many events and somehow connect them while building up a series of characters too until i somehow resemble a plot.

    I can't just write a general middle outline, i need some events in there to help me along the way. Though sometimes I suffer by trying to link everything together instead of letting characters react in their own way
     
  3. TableTop.Paper
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    TableTop.Paper Member

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    Usually, I know the ending and the start of my story before I write anything. A bit different for short stories as those just appear on a whim for me. but if I write something significantly longer I know how the story starts because you must have an idea of your main character and who he is. So at that point you introduce the environment and your main character as you start developping him.

    The ending is rather easy because it all comes down to "What message are you trying to portray?" Good over evil? Bravery? etc. So with that information, you should figure out what your protagonist will be trying to achieve over the course of the story.

    The middle is the hardest because the posibilities are limitless and, I find, that as you go along you end up thinking of new scenes to write about. Even with an outline I end up barely following it.
     
  4. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    I'm beginning to worry about my current WIP...i have NO idea where i'm going! I absolutely don't know the end!! I don't really know what kind of theme i'm working towards, either. I guess i should sit down and figure that out.... So far, all i have felt is the urge to get it onto paper!
     
  5. TableTop.Paper
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    TableTop.Paper Member

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    I don't know much but I'd say you kinda need to know what you want to happen in the end. Not neccesarly who dies and what scene but what you want to portray through the final actions and I think that is enough to go on.
     
  6. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    Ironically, the first line I decided on for my current story was the very last.
     
  7. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I write lengthy serials and am always mulling over ideas for the next one while writing the current one. So by the time I get to the next one, I almost always have the beginning, a lot of the middle, and the ending in mind--the general parts, if not exactly how I'm going to word it. So yes, I usually start with the ending already in mind. A vague idea of it, anyway.

    I usually have lots of ideas for the middle, but not necessarily how they tie together, nor do I know all of them. I like to be surprised as I go along, just like the characters are. Keeps the process interesting. (But if I jumped into a story with absolutely NO idea of what's going to happen, then I'd stall out immediately. Hence the mulling process.)

    I can't say I've ever had ANYTHING spring into mind fully formed--for that to happen to me would be bizarre, like getting pregnant and then BAM, five minutes later popping out a 25-year-old kid--but it doesn't keep me from finishing things. I just think them over some before starting. Development. *shrug*

    I try to get a story the best I can the first time so I don't have to rewrite. I go back and do a basic proofing of chapters, keeping my eye open for typos and small plot inconsistencies, before posting them to the Web, but that's about it. Several years later, if I look back and see that my style has changed enough that my earlier writing sucks, I might redo it then.
     
  8. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I like to have a good idea of where things are going before setting off. It may change along the way, but I like knowing where my final designation will be.

    Think about it like this...you dedicate countless hours to writing, and then leave the ending to chance? What if you can't think of a killer ending?

    All that investment might not pay out.
     
  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I start out with an idea for a story, and write it with the ending gradually coming out over time. I like to call this the 'Stephen King approach' and for me it only works with extensive revisions and rewrites.
     
  10. Dr. Doctor
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    Dr. Doctor Contributing Member

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    Mostly I do the same thing, starting out with either a great theme idea or a great idea for a beginning of a story, and figure out the ending as I go, usually within the very early parts of the story.
     
  11. bluejt2000
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    bluejt2000 Member

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    Without a beginning, middle and end you don't have a complete outline (although, as some other posts have already suggested, you don't have to have one to begin writing a novel). I often start with an opening image and/or a first sentence and work out from there. I create word documents for each scene in my novel and I won't begin writing a first draft until I have a complete set of scenes. Rather than finding this restrictive, as some people do, I find it a very creative and rewarding part of the process of writing a novel.

    I can't see any point in editing a first draft, as even when writing to an outline sometimes scenes need to be cut and other inserted, etc. Sometimes characters do begin to speak and act for themselves, while new ones pop up, even. If this adds to the plot then I'll adapt it as I go, sometimes adding notes to the parts I've already written if things need dropping in later. After the first draft is completed I'll look over the whole thing for structure, continuity, etc., then close in on the smaller stuff.

    By the way, I like to write mystery novels, so having an outline helps control sub plots, parallel lines of enquiry, insertion of clues, etc.

    John
     
  12. Sylvester
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    Sylvester Member

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    I have the middle and developed the beginning from that. The ending is what I get stuck on. I know the good guys will win, but I haven't figured out how.

    Right now I'm on the verge of doing a huge rewrite.
     
  13. TereFaerie
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    TereFaerie Member

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    Having an idea of how you want the story to wind up could save you lots of heartache and frustration once you are nearing the end. That's not to say you need to know word for word how the ending occurs, just what you'd like to happen. How you get to that point (ie, the actual writing) might not be obvious right away, even if you plot, especially if your characters start taking on lives of their own half way through.

    I personally am a plotter, but I am not so wedded to the ideas I come up with before the book is being written that I don't change things as I go.

    In fact, I look at an outline as more of a guideline, something to keep me focused on the goal of the main plot, but of course, tons of little subplots come out of the actual writing that I would never have anticipated while writing an outline.

    So to summarize, I don't think that knowing the ending spoils the act of writing for me. I still have to work hard to make sure that the main characters get to that point, but only after they have been through the wringer.

    Good luck!

    edit:
    Having a general idea of the ending can help keep you from doing too many re-writes instead of finessing a first draft.
    Also, knowing how the story will end can also help if you are stuck on your beginning. If you aren't sure how it will end, to bring the story full circle, you may have to wait until you have finished the first draft.
     
  14. Den
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    Den Member

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    I'm a perfectionist, so I need control of everything. But as far as ending goes, I know only an array of different endings that are all essentially the same.

    I'm writing a series. I know the exact ending for every one except the last. The very last ending has several different endings.

    So, what I do is write the beginning, build a vague middle, and then based on the characters in the beginning, formulate several endings. After that, I start putting things in place as I go along, creating more future events and more links in the very complex plot web. It's tiring.
     

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