1. ACCERBYSS
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    ACCERBYSS Member

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    What's Your Writing Process?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ACCERBYSS, May 26, 2008.

    I'm relatively new to writing and continually have great difficulty generating a well crafted and completed piece of prose. The reason I am starting this thread is that I am trying to develop a greater understanding of writing as a process. My intent here is to elicit from you all what works best for you, and then hopefully discover from that what will work best for me through a little experimentation.

    Now I realise that there are so many approaches to the craft, and for those of you who gravitate toward the more intuitive style of diving right in I would ask that you break down your approach to the point at which you are comfortable to dive in. (just letting you know I appreciate your time :D)

    The inspiration for this comes from the realisation that my approach isn’t working for me. I find that I am drowning in the chaos of partially realised ideas that have begun their lives in bright flashes of inspiration only to die cold and lonely deaths at the fingertips of a disorganised and fickle writer. (he he)

    I am not looking to place a rigid structure on my approach it’s just that I feel there is a step or steps I am missing. The reason I feel this way is that if I compare it (my writing) to an artists approach to figure drawing there is an amount of pre-construction with basic shapes and lines (a stick figure) before any detail is added. I believe that I am missing an element in this basic construction phase of prewriting as well as the gaps in my understanding of how to organise, construct and finish a well crafted story.

    I’m curios how do you all organise your process?

    A: Prewriting
    B: Writing
    C: Revision

    The old saying of “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail” is part if my inspiration here.

    Thanks in advance to any who wish to help me with this.

    Thanks

    --ACCERBYSS
     
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  2. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    I think one of the most important things you can do, is to mull your idea over for a very long time before even going near a page with it. The initial spark of an idea is fine, and the enthusiasm one feels when that creative spark makes itself known can carry you forward some of the way, but it very often cannot sustain itself, and as you point out, when another idea comes along, the first one can fall by the wayside.

    That's probably one of the chief reasons why so many writers stumble when they hit chapter five. It's not the lack of ideas, quite the opposite is true in fact; it's the lack of sustained enthusiasm for that idea, because another one has come along.

    As you correctly call it, writing is a craft, not an art; ninety nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration may not be the split, but I'm willing to bet perspiration has the greater role. As such, when you ponder an idea for a long time before you begin to write, if you still want to turn that idea into something, then you are not reliant on a fickle whim that holds you in thrall upon its arrival, but something with the staying power to help you see the job through.

    That's certainly the way I approach fictional writing, factual writing is another thing altogether, I'll usually hammer that out the moment I get an idea, because writing of that kind, whenever I do it, is rarely longer than a few thousand words.

    Al
     
  3. LibbyAnn
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    LibbyAnn Contributing Member

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    I generally start writing by going for a long run with my favorite CD at the moment playing on my iPod. Crazy, right? ;) During my run I will work out a plot in my head. I find my best ideas come to me during my running time because it gives me a chance to be alone with my thoughts...find what works best for you! It may be sitting at your desk, outside, etc. Find a place where you can be alone with your thoughts and decide on a very basic and general plot structure. If you need to, write this down. I usually don't, but if I'm ever stuck I will. After this step, I've usually got a pretty good grasp on my main characters. I know their basic personality traits, things they like, dislike, etc. I guess you could call all this my "prewriting."

    After that, I usually dive right in. I pick whatever scene I find the most intriguing at the moment. This is usually NOT the beginning of the story. Sometimes it's even the very end of the story. This works for me though. If I start at the beginning and I'm not that "into" the story yet, it's generally bland and pretty dull, and ends up getting re-written eventually. If I start somewhere that is exciting to me, then I have a good time getting to that point in the plot. I also have to add that it is perfectly acceptable for you to change the basic plot structure as you go along and begin to understand your characters more and more. I think this is what writing is all about - it's the fun part!

    After I've written the entire story, then I usually try to forget about it for a few days, or even a few weeks. Then I come back and re-read the entire thing without making any edits to it at all. In this reading, I get a feel of what it would be like to be the reader reading the finished piece. I can see what works and what doesn't. After this, I get out a red pen and go to town on it. I scratch out what doesn't work. I fix grammar and spelling. I make tons of crazy notes in the margins. Sometimes, I even feel the need to scrap the whole thing and start over again.

    After I've edited it to where I feel I can't do it anymore, I let a trusted friend read and give me feed back. And then I listen. I listen to every word, even if it's negative. And then I go fix again. I repeat this process until I feel that it's "finished." Sometimes that finished feeling never comes...and that's okay!

    I hope that helps somewhat. I know that my style of writing isn't the most organized...I've found that if I try to organize too much, I lose touch with my characters. I totally let my characters dictate my writing - a lot of times, this means straying far away from where I thought my plot was going to go...but it always creates a better product for me than if I write out a detailed plot and stick to it like glue.

    Good luck!! :)
     
  4. Nati
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    Nati Member

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    I hardly ever prewrite. My first draft is all I start out with. Then reread and carefully revise it.

    When I do prewrite, the story never seems to be written but planned. Over planned. Then, I act out the scenes in my head and not care whether or not if it's written down.

    So what works best for me is just writing the story or the character. Even if it's nothing huge. Just writing and then later put together the piece to be coherent is what I do. Revising is the most important step I come across.

    Don't worry so much about certain steps. In fact, my creative writing teacher suggests to forget everything about what we were taught before. For instance, don't worry about putting the thesis of an essay on your introduction and oh no now write three supporting paragraphs for the thesis.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    I’m curios how do you all organise your process?

    A: Prewriting

    ...i've no idea what you mean by that, but if you mean 'outlining' i never do... i just get an idea and start writing... at some point, if it's to be a book, i'll do a skeleton of the basic parts, but i don't get anal about it...

    B: Writing

    ...i don't 'organize' it... i just write...

    C: Revision

    ...i don't do much in the way of revision, if any at all... editing and polishing is usually only needed for minor stuff like typos and a word change here and there...
     
  6. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    I don't think of them as separate steps. Everything is just another part of the lovely dance with words.

    I start with a rudimentary outline. Just the beginning, the central conflict, 5-10 pivotal events necessary to get from point A to point B, and the projected ending (never carved in stone, sometimes it changes.)

    Then I do character work. Developing my main and secondary characters. Secondary characters almost always come with sub-plots.

    When I do sit down to do the raw narrative, it is mostly a matter of finding ways to connect the pivotal events in an organic manner.

    I seldom revise much -- unless I had a brain fart and there is a huge plot hole that slipped through. I read through for needless words, sentences or scenes, grammar bloopers, and spelling.
     
  7. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    After mulling over the feeling or concept for however long it takes, I then sit and develop the 'germ' into a fairly basic character/plot outline. I'll leave this for a short period before developing it further until I have a sufficient understanding of what I want to do and where I want to bring it. Then I arrange myself and proceed, in longhand, transcribing to my laptop that evening. I use this transcribing process as my basic first edit. I continue with this method until I finish the first draft. Then I put it away for a few weeks before diving in for the second draft.
    For me, reviewing is essential. I review/rewrite several times before I allow anyone to read it. After that, well, I work on the feedback until I'm content that I've brought it on sufficinetly to be read again by an outsider. Another draft ensues until I'm confident it's ready to be sent to an editor or agent. A long process, but essential in the present market where agents haven't the time or the inclination to take onboard an undeveloped piece, irrespective of what potential it carries.
     
  8. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    This quote here sums up a lot of my own writing process. I'm of the "dive right in" variety, but there's more to diving in than just diving in. A huge part of my writing process is just...mulling the ideas over in my head. In my experience it's rarely a good idea to start a story when you've just come up with the idea, unless you're planning on a short story. If you want something longer, then you're going to have to put a lot more mulling into it.

    I find that a lot of my mulling period takes places during the writing of the previous story (I write in long series stories); for example, I'm working on the third serial right now, but I often find myself thinking about what I want to happen in the fourth serial--and even the fifth. I did the same thing during my earlier stories--during the first one, I was busy thinking about the second! I often have to keep myself from starting the stories early for the very reason that they might not be "ready" to be written yet. So prepare to multitask--think about something while doing something else.

    As far as preparation goes that's honestly all I have. :/ You can try outlining and such, though I don't do that, myself.

    Prewriting?--this is a foreign concept to me. I just write the story in the first place, I see no need to prewrite it. Maybe jot down a scene idea or some such here and there, but not all-out prewriting; sorry I have no advice for this.

    Writing?--I've already gone over how I do this myself, though it varies for others.

    Revision?--I'm somewhat different in that I don't do much revision; I try to get it right the first time. I do, however, proofread the chapters to catch errors, and lately have been taking notes to keep track of where the story is going and keep an eye open for continuity problems. If there is ever to be significant revision, it will have to be years later.

    Sorry that my reply probably isn't terribly helpful, it's just that the writing process is so different for everybody, and someone's process won't work for someone else. There's no surefire way to get a story written.

    So to reiterate, the most useful step I can think of is to just think things over. Think during the day, during the night, when you're busy writing and when you're not. The more you think over a story's ideas the more developed they'll become. To start a story before you've developed the ideas properly is like standing a newborn baby on its feet and hoping that it will walk. Of course it's not going to get very far. :)
     
  9. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    For me, it's kind of a falling together.
    First, I get a totally awesome line or image or scene or character idea in my head. Maybe two. They usually happen right before I go to bed, so I scribble down a few nigh-incoherent sentences on a piece of paper by my bed before conking out.
    Then the idea incubates and grows in my head for a few weeks. Then I sit down and write a thorough summary of each scene in the story- ie, "Jack goes to the hill, where he pleads Jill to see sense. She refuses and pulls her gun, but the plea turns out to be a ploy for time- and the land mine Jack planted goes off under Jill's feet." (That's a real scene I wrote, by the way- long story.)

    Once that's done for the whole story, I feel all wrote out, so I forget about writing for a few days. Then I come back and, well, write.

    I find that having everything planned out before I write makes it hard for me to get writer's block or lose momentum. I used to hate planning ahead, but now it's the only way I can get something done.
     
  10. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    I never prewrite. Not thoroughly, anyhow. Occasionally I jot down a few ideas, but I don't plan out each chapter or scene and so forth. I find that doing so extinguishes the enthusiasm I have upon thinking of a new idea.
    I don't think of writing as a process as such, either. More as a journey.
    But if I were to think of my writing as a process, it'd look something like this:

    1. Initial idea
    2. Mull over and develop idea in head
    3. Jot down a few notes
    4. Begin writing and develop story as I write
    5. Finish first draft
    6. Put away first draft for 1 week, then read over it
    7. Edit it
    8. Rewrite first draft
    9. Edit second draft
    10. Rewrite and edit as much as is required

    Hope that helps. That's the way I usually do it, but each to their own.
     
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  11. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    ACCERBYSS,

    There are so many methods, as indicated, that eventually you'll find one that works for you.

    Here I would have to agree and disagree with Mammamaia. I think the more experienced a writer gets, the less 'revision' is needed--and it's rather more polish and editing. The first time out, especially with a novel, the writer will learn quite a bit about writing from the beginning to the end, and there will be some revision needed to get it right if the novel has any chance of getting published. Of course, I guess it also depends on what one means by 'revision'. I consider revision discarding whole sections, changing in a major way the plot lines, characters and events because it (they) just isn't 'working'. In my opinion, a little planning as opposed to just sitting and writin and seeing what happens, saves a lot of revision/editing/rewriting, etc.

    For what it's worth, how I do it:
    I do a bit of planning. Mostly starting with an interesting idea or event, then comes the characters. It brews a while in my mind, like while driving to work or sitting and daydreaming for short spurts.

    Then I jot down where I want to begin (a line or two) and the ending, and major events along the way.

    Then I write from beginning to end. I write a section or chapter, rough draft. Next time I sit down, I go back and reread what was written, fix it up a bit with edits, typos and any minor changes. Then add new words. Next time, repeat until the end. Here, my crit group sometimes adds input.

    All the while I jot ideas in a file or notebook to include after the first draft is complete.

    I let it sit, then go back and fix (revise/edit/rewrite sections--whatever you want to call it). I make another pass to get rid of typos, missing words, things like that.

    Then it goes to readers, who give overall opinions, minor suggestions, typo or consistency corrections, etc. (Each reader is different).

    I consider what the readers had to say. Implement what seems logical. Polish it one more time and then send it off to a market.

    ==============

    If you do 'prewrite', make sure to allow yourself to change bits here and there, even the ending if needed...or after the first draft, change where you begin the story.

    Good luck.

    Terry
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    terry... i was referring only to myself, not to writers in general... thus, i don't think you were disagreeing at all, do you?... sorry i didn't make that clear enough... hugs, m
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mammamaia,

    That's why I stated that I agreed and disagreed. In my experience, a new writer just starting out is very likely to require revision (major rewrite with addition/alteration/deletion of sections). And as I indicated, once finished with the first draft of the first project, the amount learned will likely necessitate this.

    Like so many other things, experience in taking on/completing a task allows one to be a bit more efficient. Even so, striving to improve and doing so is vital, be it the first novel or the fifth.

    The main thrust of my post was to point out that everyone takes writing on a bit differently, but that expecting the first attempt to be good enough for publication without a bit of reworking is very unlikely.

    Terry
     
  14. Aurora_Black
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    Aurora_Black Contributing Member

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    I usually don't have a set plan sheet when i want to write, kind of takes the fun out of it. I like to let the story unroll by itself, going along as i see fit until i have one gorgeous red carpet the readers can walk over! :cool:

    But thats just me. :)
     
  15. ACCERBYSS
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    ACCERBYSS Member

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    I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed so far. The best thing that has come out of reading everyone’s posts is discovering that I am not alone and that what I am doing and how I am approaching writing isn't the wrong way.

    Writing for me, in some ways is an act of self imposed isolation, an artistic journey into creative solitary confinement and self discovery. The benefit of having joined the writing community of www.writingforums.org is that when I am filled with doubt I can reach out and get assistance when needed.

    I am new to writing and as yet have not found what works best for me, but after having read all of your post I now realise that it is just a matter of experience rather than talent.

    I am hoping to turn the headlights of this vehicle on so that I can stop plunging through the darkness not knowing what I am doing or where I am going.

    I am curious how do most of you develop your characters?
    How much work do you put into them before you write and how much of their story is discovered during the writing?

    Just out of curiosity could someone post a copy of an outline they have done for a piece they have written. I am interested to see how you have developed it.

    Your posts are helping me develop an understanding of my approach. Thanks for your guidance and patience.

    I hope to repay you all with a brilliant piece of "completed" prose.

    Thanks again


    --Accerbyss
     
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  16. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    Okay, here's an original draft of the opening from a story of mine that has been published. The finished version which appears in print is not too dissimilar to what you see here, things such as the character 'Jake Freedom' had a name change to something more believable and some typos were corrected, but essentially it did not change much, which is indicative of what I described as my own personal writing process, i.e that of working most of it out prior to beginning to write:

    The bow of U-534 towered high above Jake as he wandered around her, taking in the whale-like beauty of the old U-Boat’s bow planes in the early-morning winter sunlight. Even in her dilapidated state, the boat still exuded power and grace.
    ‘She’s a beautiful thing isn’t she?’ Jake opined, as a stranger on the other side of the boat emerged, apparently similarly entranced.
    ‘I’m sorry?’ the stranger replied as he turned around, revealing his black suit was in fact the outfit of a priest.
    ‘I was saying she’s a beautiful thing, erm, padre, although judging by your profession - and her purpose - I guess maybe you don’t entirely agree.’
    ‘Oh. That’s alright son, even a thing of war can still be a thing of beauty, it’s only what it can do that might be ugly.’ replied the priest.
    ‘I guess that’s true enough, even if it isn’t fighting the good fight.’ Jake replied, ‘Name’s Jake, Jake Freedom.’
    The priest shook Jake’s extended hand warmly, surprising him with his strong, purposeful grasp.
    ‘Maybe even more than you know Jake. I’m Geoff, Geoff Berkeley,’ the priest answered.
    ‘More than I know?’ asked Jake, puzzled.
    ‘Well, I suppose I ought to explain, after all, it wouldn’t do for a priest to be less than honest now, would it?’ the priest offered, somewhat mysteriously.
    ‘Come and have a drink with me Jake.’ he added, motioning toward a nearby caravan which was doubling as a cafe selling teas and burgers to people on the nearby industrial estate as well as occasional visitors to U-534.
    ‘Why the hell not -, I mean, that is to say, why not? After you padre.’ Jake responded, slightly embarrassed by the faux pas of using one of his favourite phrases.
    The two men strolled over to the makeshift café, passing underneath the stern planes of U-534, past the massive twin screws of the Type IX U-Boat, and past the split plating on her external hull. Evidence of more adventurous days.
    Sunk in May 1945 by bombs from an RAF Coastal Command Liberator, for which the RAF pilot had earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. U-534 had lain undisturbed in the silt of Scandanavian waters for almost fifty years, until she was awoken from her slumber, having been raised in 1993. She’d finally found a home in what the Beatles LSD-fuelled songs of the Sixties had named the land of submarines - Liverpool. – U-534 was no yellow submarine however, instead she wore an autumnal rust colour, with plenty of evidence of what saltwater can do to steel

    Al
     
  17. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    Hope that helps, although it is only one of many approaches you can take.

    Al
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    none, that i can recall... major and minor players all come to me full-fleshed, so to speak, with me knowing whatever i need to know about them...

    all that needs to be known by the readers, to make the story work... i'm a mostly 'by the seat of my pants' writer and will only scratch out an outline of sorts when the plot gets complex enough for me to be at risk of screwing up the time line or muddling the subplots...
    here's a rough outline i did up for an extremely complex, in-the-works historical novel, 'matera':
    that's as far as i've gotten, aside from having tossed off an introduction and the start of a chapter... book is shelved, may never be written, due to my vow to never again write [or do anything] for money... hope it helps you to see how one writer approaches the outline process...

    hugs, m
     
  19. ACCERBYSS
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    ACCERBYSS Member

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    Fantastic Al B and Mammamaia this really, really helps.

    Thanks again everyone

    --Accerbyss
     
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  20. kisonakl
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    kisonakl Member

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    1. Initial idea spark
    2. Think of how to make idea original, new
    3. Think of sympathetic characters
    4. Begin drafting chapters
    5. Organize plot in cool, effective way
    6. Continue writing
    7. Stop for a while, mull things over
    8. Write again
    9. Rethink some ideas, finish draft
    10. Edit
     
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  21. pip
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    pip Member

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    I'm not one of the fortunate ones, it takes time for me to get to know my characters, before they leap in and almost write for themselves. I usually begin with a scrapbook. I find pitcures from various sources such as magazines, old photos and even from junk mail. I build up a folio of them, writing notes along the way. For example I may list favorite color, song, food, perfume and their dislikes. I might write a CV for them. Some characters come easier than others, for example I may have to find a picture of their house. Also I may need to keep a daily diary of one who is bothersome. For dialogue I may need to write out a conversataion I am having with one of them to understand how they would react in certain situations. All of this I find to be lots of fun and yes at times I question my sanity and I swear I only converse with them when I'm alone or else I would look extremely loopy, especially when I say 'pardon'.

    I also keep a notebook in my bag and jot down things. An overheard conversation on a train, the smell of the bakery, an old man walking an old dog and wonder who will die first. I observe and are intrigued by people shopping, why do they need that item, is it for an occasion, can they afford it?

    The internet is a great place to begin researching and for inspiration. I find wonderful photos of secenery, people, cities etc in 'images'. If I need further indepth, reliable information I head for a library or perhaps a government department.

    I hope some of this helps to gather your thoughts in finding what works for you.
     
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  22. hiddendragon
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    hiddendragon New Member

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    Crazy Ivan is right, you gotta plan ahead. The first thing I do is think of the ending, one spectacular ending. Then i think of the beginning. I then weave the rest of the story in and make indirect routes to that end, in order to create the most surprise and suspense. The natural goal of a story is to be both enjoyable and suspenseful to the reader, and i think that is the best way to go about it.
     
  23. all_my_hues
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    all_my_hues New Member

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    Prewriting is always done in my head -- I daydream it out when I should be doing other things ;P
     
  24. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    ^^^ I agree... I dont prewrite at all, except for in my head... I just sit in front of the computer start at the beginning and end at the end. The whole thing gets expanded/revised as I work until at the end i come out with a coherent story.
     
  25. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^that's what i do. and then sometimes i sit there and read over it and i'm like "OMG thats what happened!" and there is some major element of the story.

    and then other times i am sitting in school, and i think of something, and just start writing, it'll just be a paragraph to a page, and then i will spend the next few weeks incessently thinking about it, that being my prewriting, then i expand on it.

    even when i am in the middle of the story, i will think "how would shay (current MC) react to this" and there comes a new scene, that i fit into my story.
     
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