Answering Questions in a Rambling Fashion

The lovely dawnstarpony stopped by and asked a question. Actually, a bunch of questions. And I am more than happy answer to the best of my abilities. I appologize if I run long or ramble in my reply.

“you know how you say that sometimes you write 6k words a day (or probably more than that on most days)… do you plan your novels in advance? so you know at least a basic idea of what happens and why it happens? how do you not get “stuck”? or do you just use random nano dares just to get a word count? good luck and thanks for being so inspiring.”

The best way to go about this is to talk about my writing process. If one thing is apparent from my research, it is that we all have very different ways of doing everything, especially creative pursuits like writing. So keep in mind this is just how I do it. Others may be different.

Oh, and I'm going to skip the question about not getting “stuck” for today. That will need its own blog post. Or two.

Do I plan my novels in advance and do I have a basic idea of what happens and why it happens?

Mostly no. At least not in the sense that I know exactly what is going to happen and how, or even how I am going to get to the ending (this generally happens by some magic as I stay up to write the last 5,000 words and am too tired to filter my mind.)

So as for planning, the best I can say is that I always begin with something that will carry me through the whole novel. I search for something I can investigate tirelessly, or a character I like enough to spend a month sharing brain space with, or a plot I haven't been able to let go of.

That is the best planning I can give myself, and anything beyond that tends to just slow me down and distract me from the writing I am doing. Too much planning, and I get stuck in the idea of what I intended to write and lose sight of the writing I am doing. These two are often very, very different.

Once I begin a story, if I give it enough to run on – a good character with flaws and issues to work through, a setting that isn't too limiting, a supporting cast that tests the main character's limits and patience – then, it generally will give me the plot I need as I go.

(As an aside, knowing how a plot works well enough to be able to follow it even when thingscomes idled and the story seems hopeless, comes only from studying good plots. Watch lots of good quality movies and television shows. Read and re-read books that have you hanging on through the end. If it keeps you up all night to finish, it's worth studying. Study, write, troubleshoot. Repeat.)

Anyway, on to what happens and why. I do know why things happen because I try to make everything that happens in my story drive the plot forward. A lot of times I am not entirely aware of all the things I am doing as I write. My intuition and subconscious leave little pearls along the way for me to string together toward the end. But I do not start out knowing how things will go.

So I write a scene, and in that scene the characters take action. Then, I write about the consequences of their actions, bring in more complications or a side plot, and write about what they do in response. Again, there are consequences, more complications, more information to put together. And if I do this right, the tension builds and the actual plot comes into focus.

This approach is interesting because the ending is a logical consequence of the events in the book. In fact, I try and follow the logical progression of the story. If the characters are real enough and working at cross purposes most of the time, this happens fairly well. Creating conflict is the part I am still constantly learning about, deciding which conflict is the most interesting and then looking for a solution that is not the most obvious and also the most character building.

The only rule I have is that every character must change and grow by the end. Even if just a little. And I keep throwing things at them and making their lives harder and harder until change happens.

And the last question for today is: Do I use nano dares (and other tricks) to get the words done?

Back in my first few years doing NaNoWriMo, I used every trick in the book. Literally, I bought the book about National Novel Writing Month, and I used every trick listed in there. And I needed all of them.

But now, I actually find that even though I often get to crunch time at the end, 50,000 words just are not enough to tell the story. I end up skipping scenes with just a few notes about what happens so I can get all the good stuff in by the end. I look forward to being able to go back and filling in the gaps and making a complete work instead of what feels like a short guidebook through what I intended to say.

Hopefully my rambling has answered these questions a little. And I promise I'll write more about not getting stuck and what I do if I am. Tomorrow. Today, there is writing to do. Lots and lots of writing.

It is surprisingly difficult to examine my process so directly, and I will write more on it as I have more time to think about it. And I am sure that my methods will change over time as I become a more skilled storyteller.

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4 thoughts on “Answering Questions in a Rambling Fashion

  1. that was very informative–thank you! i feel honored that I inspired a blog post. 🙂 maybe my problem is that I plan *too* much. but who knows, maybe over planning will work for me… eventually. i shall have to see.

    1. Everyone has their own style, for sure. I tend to feel my way through life with a loose idea of what I want in the end, so my art naturally imitates my life.

      But some store require more planning, it is all up to your own experimentation.

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