Sunday, 24 July 2011

How I write


I’ve always been a big story planner. I can’t start writing until I know the beginning and end, and I like to know the main events and conflicts that happen in the middle. In terms of characters, I only tend to start writing knowing their names - the rest of them comes with the story.

Sometimes, though, it’s the character that comes to me, already pretty developed. I write down everything about them and build a story from that; from knowing who they are and putting them in a situation that I’d like to see them deal with.

Planning involves pages full of notes, snippets of dialogue and sentences, words that I like for the story, and the tone of voice of the piece.


I’ve been trying different writing methods.

In the past, I used to write a couple of paragraphs, read over them and have to ‘perfect’ them before writing on. If I wasn’t happy, I couldn’t continue. This writing technique got me into a lot of trouble: lots of unfinished stories and wasted time.

Lately, I’ve been writing writing writing and not editing anything until the end. The only reading over I will do is of the last few paragraphs, just to capture the tone and moment before continuing on. Sometimes, I will make some small tweaks and fix obvious spelling or grammar issues, but nothing more. And that’s been working really well for me. The story I just finished, I sat down in three different sessions over a week and wrote the whole thing out.

Most of the time I write on my laptop but sometimes I do enjoy writing by hand. I just find that my hand doesn't write as fast as I'm thinking. Often, I'll be writing on the computer with a notebook next to me so I can jot down words and events as I think of them. 


I like to leave stories after they’ve been written for at least a week, usually two weeks, without me reading it. That way, I can look over it with a clear mind and pick up a lot more issues with it.

I print it off and go over it with a coloured pen, marking all the spelling and grammar that needs fixing, plot parts to watch out for, words that need switching and areas that need re- working.

For paragraphs that I’m not 100% happy with, I will open a new document on my computer, and re-write that paragraph, sometimes with the other one next to it, sometimes just working from scratch.

Sometimes, if there are issues with where to start or with the flow, I will print out the story, cut it up into chapters and shuffle it around on the floor.
Editing usually involves a lot of cutting and adding.
And it usually results in quite a few drafts.

How much do you plan before writing?
Do you write in sections and edit, or get it all out before editing?
Any particular methods of editing?

1 comment:

  1. I just got some good ideas from you, thank you very much :D Like keeping a notepad beside the laptop. I soooo know what you mean...writing by hand. My hand can't keep up with my brain and the idea will sometimes pass me by.

    My planning is a lot like yours - I write pages and pages about characters (they usually drive my story/plot more than anything...) and then I write and write and write. At the end of a chapter, I'll do a once-through, and then move on. Just because I hurry to get the ideas out that the writing suffers, so my once-through is for readability and any missed additions, then I continue! I also take a few weeks (um, sometimes 2 months) away, read, then go back and beat my ms senseless.

    Another tactic I'll use is each time I go through and revise, I'll be on the look out for a different element, ie character arcs, then the next time I go through I'll focus on world building, then I'll focus on themes, etc. It helps me make sense of everything without being totally overwhelmed *dies*

    Thanks for posting this! Especially as I'm getting ready to start my next story. IT's always hard for me to know just how much to plot before I get writing.