Everyone does it differently. Some people write passionately with pen and paper, and only pump it into the computer once there’s a significant amount. Some take notes and plot the entire story out before even writing the first word. The goal is the same – write the story – but getting there is different for everyone.
I write by the seat of my pants. The one time I can remember plotting out entire points throughout a story, I veered so drastically off course from the timeline that it could have been a different story altogether. I learned then that plotting out every detail is not for me. So I changed it, and I gave up trying to write down what I wanted to happen. If I stuck to a single idea, that was all well and good, but if not, hey, as long as I ended up liking the story, I really didn’t mind.
Now, I keep a general idea of what I want to happen. When I started writing Changeling, I did it only because I had been writing epic fantasy sans magic for a very long time – see: Of the Arbour and related stories – and I wanted a character who was a mage. Once I got further into the story, I had only a few things I wanted to end up happening: I wanted there to be a war of sorts, I wanted a romantic subplot, I wanted a certain unpleasant thing that shall not be revealed to happen to Aisling, and I wanted some sort of snarky minor character. I got all these things, but my original ideas of them changed as the story itself progressed. Now, I’m delighted where it ended up.
I almost exclusively write on the computer. I have my Asus gaming laptop, my trusty MS Word setup, and the new Scrivener layout (that I’m still getting used to). If I’m trying to take my writing seriously and not just jot a few words down, I’ll open up iTunes, crank on some of my categorized folders with scores set up specifically for writing scenes – see: Inspiration – and just let ‘er go. My fingers can keep up to my thoughts when I’m typing, which is why I generally only write on the computer. I do have some notebooks scattered about for when I get ideas and my computer isn’t available, but that process is slower, due to me getting hand cramps if I have to print or write cursive.
Once I’ve finished a story to my general satisfaction, I print it out, staple it together chapter by chapter, get out the trusty red pen, and go wild editing. Switch words around, change typos, fix inconsistencies. That sort of super fun thing that everyone just adores.
Of course, that being said, my printer weeps when I make it work this hard. This is also when I cut out crap I loved at the time but now seem unnecessary, and just generally try to be as ruthless as possible. It’s hard, but it’s for the best. Changeling was close to 200 000 words and still going before I cut out a bunch; now it’s just over 180 000. It still seems like a lot, but that was a big difference. Then beta readers come in which just means I bug my friends to read my stories and any rewrites that are necessary are made, as in the case of Purity.
The only real step after that is, wait for it, publishing. But that comes later.
How does everyone else write? Do you stick to paper or are you exclusively electronic? I’m curious to see how it varies between authors.’
For information about the creative process of writing songs and poetry, see my friend Bethany’s blog post on just that.