1. Nebulous
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    Nebulous New Member

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    Starting to write with only a vague idea of where you're going?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nebulous, Aug 28, 2016.

    I recently read that the idea for Harry Potter popped into J.K Rowling's head whilst she was waiting for a delayed train. As soon as she finally arrived home, she said she "immediately began writing" the Harry Potter story. So I am wondering has anyone here ever started writing a story when they don't have all the puzzle pieces for the plot together? I always thought it was better to thoroughly research and have every aspect of the plot 100% down before beginning to write a story, but I am eager to hear everyone else's ideas.
     
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  2. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Plenty of writers work that way. I never plan out the story. I always make it up as I'm writing. I usually don't even have a vague idea. For me, it keeps things interesting and my ideas fresh. But a lot of writers like to plan and work off outlines. I think both sides are a little amazed at how the other side works. Outlines seem like an extra step to me. And I realized I am more likely to finish a book or story if I just make it up as I'm writing. Let's put it this way. I almost always finish what I start, but I have never once finished an outline, let alone the writing for it that would have followed. It just doesn't work for me. I'm sure you can find plenty of discussions on this around here if you look around. But there is really nothing new about writers winging it and making up a story as they are writing it. I do it almost every day.
     
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  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I started my first attempt at a novel that way. It probably resulted in a more rambling story because of it. For the novel I am currently pitching, I started writing only after laying out a meticulous plan (much of which I later trashed either in writing or in editing). At this point, I only begin writing if I have 1) the central conflict, 2) a general concept of my protag, including how (s)he might be changed by the story; 3) an idea of where I think the story will finish.
     
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  4. Petesky
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    Petesky Member

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    I only started writing a couple of weeks ago so can't really comment from experience. But from what I've been reading on forums and writing tips websites, it seems there is no 'right' way of writing. Some people like to plan the whole thing out while others just like to blag it as they go along. I think I'm going to fall in to the latter.
    I started writing this the other day, not knowing where it was going. But I do know it's going to get darker, and probably involve pain and death. So I sort of have an idea of how the story is going to come across, but the details I gradually unravel. But that's just me.


    Roman looked out his bedroom window, removing some of the condensation with a warm breath and a squeaky wipe of his hand. Dancing swirls of giant white flakes flurried past. His eyes widened and he grinned in delight. The world was a giant cake covered in icing sugar. Well almost. For here and there on the hill beyond his garden, parts of the naked trees were visible. Gnarled limbs and trunks stood out in silhouette against the fresh white canvas, giant twisted claws reaching up to clutch hand fulls of snow.
    Running down the stairs, he paused briefly at the bottom to grab his winter clothing. He flung open the door and skipped down the path, the tips of his wellied toes gathering a gradual build up of snow. He crossed the lane to the field and carefully selected a spot where he could set to work;he would build the biggest and best snowman the village had ever seen.

    I haven't a clue where it's going, but I enjoyed writing it :). Maybe the snowman will absorb the boy and grow bigger and stronger or maybe he will become godzilla like causing massive destruction...who knows ?:) And that's the fun of it.
     
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  5. karldots92
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    karldots92 Active Member

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    I have said this on a previous post but I'm not able to plan at all. Like there is some stuff I know has to happen, like characters meeting but beyond that I just write and see where it takes me. I might come up with ideas for what happens later on make a note and try to slot it in but mostly I just make it up. My Fantasy WIP has a number of characters and they all have to meet at some stage so I have kind of planned out what order they meet but the where and how hadn't come to me yet so I see where it takes me. For my Sci-Fi WIP I don't even have that much. I have a character and a task he has to accomplish but beyond that I haven't a clue. I've tried planning stuff out but its nearly impossible to stick to it and if I try to it comes out reading very plodding and predictable. I think its more enjoyable when you don't know what's going to happen.
     
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  6. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    I've only once started out knowing exactly where it was going (and actually had the story come out that way). Normally I either have a concept and write a ton of stuff around that concept, then I try to work out what the story is, or I have an overall plot that gets altered a lot during the course of writing.

    I think one thing I'm writing wants to be a novel. I've been writing/thinking about it on and off for about 4 years now. I'm pretty sure I know how everything ends, and I know where most characters start, but there's a lot of stuff in the middle I've still to sort out.
     
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  7. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    This is really wonderful information. I want to expand by saying that it's not necessary to meticulously plan the whole story in order to know those three things. As I'm developing as a writer, I'm realizing that the three points that @EdFromNY mentioned are really essential to writing a good story.

    In the past, I've written off the cuff and wound up with stories that had no real direction. A series of events that I usually abandoned because I didn't have a clear concept of these three points.
     
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  8. Insearchof
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    Insearchof New Member

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    I have so many elements and connecting them is the journey. Hopefully there will be a story that comes out of it.
     
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  9. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    My current novel started as a writing prompt with just the word "twins." From there, I wrote a short story about these twins who has odd powers. When I finished the short, I told myself, "I want to know more about these twins." Three months later, I have a finished 1st draft.
     
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  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I would say that not only is meticulous planning not necessary to know them, it actually can get in the way.

    I recently attended the Writers Digest Conference in New York. I went to a session on building suspense in mystery writing (because I have an idea for a crime novel that I've been toying with for some time) given by Jane K. Cleland. I found most of her talk entertaining, if not especially enlightening, until the last fifteen minutes, when she said, "How do you plan for all of this? Well, I use what I like to call my roadmap." And she went on to describe an exhaustive outlining process in which one introduces the first subplot at page 40, the second subplot at page 80...with circles and arrows indicating where they all go. I felt like I was gasping for breath. The next session was Steven James, who wrote "Story Trumps Structure" and was giving a session of the same title. He had been sitting in the back for Jane's session. And he started out by saying, "I know Jane has had a lot of success, but I honestly don't see how anyone could write that way!" And all the air came back into the room.
     
  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    OP, if you haven't already you may want to do some reading on planners vs pantsers - those are the standard terms for the two extremes.

    The famous explanation from a pants-ing writing was that he wrote stories like driving a car at night - you can only see as far ahead as your headlights will show you, but you can make the whole trip that way.
     
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  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, what struck me about Steven James was that he apparently hates the term "pantsing" even more than I do. He calls his system "organic writing" and it has much to recommend it.
     
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  13. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Personally, I think the term "pantsing" is a bit ridiculous. And I think the whole debate between the two--planning vs pantsing--even more ridiculous. Different things work for different people and I bet the majority of people usually rest somewhere in the middle of two extremes. It always irks me when I hear people talking about the right way to write.
     
  14. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read that she had all eight novels planned out before she even started writing the first one.

    Which makes me wonder which of these stories is true.
     
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  15. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    Right now I have a story with neither beginning nor end. What I do have is ~35k word collection of scenarios, snippets of conversation and 1st person observations and thoughts. At some point I'm going to have to pull it all together and write the book.

    How many writers write linearly, chapter 1, chapter 2 chapter 3 and so on; and how many write chapters non-linearly? Some of my snippets could well stand as entire chapters, but not as short stories (my usual genre/format).

    Note to self: Must draw up a story arc and see where what I've written so far could fit.
     
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  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe neither. JK Rowling stories are becoming as ubiquitous as Abraham Lincoln stories and Mark Twain quotes.
     
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  17. christinacantwrite
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    christinacantwrite Member

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    Agree wholeheartedly. It's all about finding the right way for you and sometimes that takes time. It also irritates me when people imply that "pantsers" are somehow more talented writers. No your end product determines how talented you are, not your process of getting there (and even then it's subjective).

    When I began writing my first piece, I jumped right in. I knew my characters very well because I'd been playing out their stories in my mind for years, but I was clueless as to what the plot would be for this specific story. To this day I still have no idea what that story was about, it was just my characters... doing stuff. When I discovered it wasn't working, I swung the other way and wrote a detailed, chapter-by-chapter plan for my next piece. It sucked all the spontaneity and creativity out of my writing, it was dull, and I soon lost interest. Now I write rough outlines with a few key points (instigating event, the MC's goal, antagonist's goal etc.) but resist the urge to add detail until the actual writing begins. I find this way my writing has more focus, but is still creative, with plenty of room for new ideas without needing to revise the whole plan.

    Weirdly I find the same happens when I'm writing essays in exams. I always do better in the questions which I feel woefully unprepared for, perhaps because when I (over)prepare I end up following a formula. Leaving a certain amount of thinking to last minute works well for me in both cases.

    At first I saw this and thought - write non-linearly, what? uh? wtf? nooo you can't do that - but having thought about it, it sounds kinda fun! I'd also like to know if others do this. Might give it a try myself.
     
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  18. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I thought it was just me! I despise the term with a passion, and the debate even more.
     
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  19. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Before reading @EdFromNY post I'd have said I make it up as I go along - which is essentially true. But if I'm honest with myself I think I do have these three things in place.

    Having said that, it's clear that writing by the seat of your pants works for many.
     
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  20. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    This relates to the whole Pantsers vs Planners:

     
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  21. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    As someone currently undergoing the having to read the entire Harry Potter series to a 7 year old I would have to say that there may be a lot of HP books, but there isn't a lot of variety between them.
     
  22. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I think he meant the stories about JK Rowling herself. Like rumors about her writing process. I've never even read Harry Potter but I've heard dozens of stories about the woman's writing practice.
     
  23. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    Yeah me too. She had children, signed onto welfare, and sat in Starbucks while they were at school, writing repetitive stories about irritating boy wizards while waiting for her next cheque.

    At some point in all this she became richer than god and now spends most of her life arguing with people on Twitter about politics and feminism.
     
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  24. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    :superlaugh:
     
  25. cydney
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    cydney Banned

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    This is so awesome. Good/great writers are so quirky? eccentric? strange? (sometimes) but everyone reads what they write.
     

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