Sunday, 13 February 2011

How Do You Write?

Today, in my break at work, I started reading Writing Magazine's March issue.  I was glad to see another article from Bob Gale and David Baboulene, using the example of Back To The Future, illustrating the development of ideas into a story.  All very interesting, and I haven't finished reading it yet (my break ended far too quickly).  But one thing I read and I sat there nodding, agreeing, 'yes I do that':

"If you don't know where the story is heading, you can't aim towards it..." 

I agree with that statement 110%.  When I write, I do have a vague idea of where the story is ending, not necessarily exactly how, but I do have some shape or form of how it needs to end in my mind.  (As I write romance that normally means happy ending).  And usually, I need to know before I start writing.  The middle can be a fuzzy mess, but I do like to know where I am heading. 

Then, coming home and reading Stephen King On Writing, he discusses letting the characters lead the story.  He 'distrusts' plot.  I believe he could be talking 'seats of pants' writing, not that he calls it that.  He talks about not neccesarily knowing the ending, and that if he's not sure how it's going to end while writing it, imagine what the readers might be feeling... which I suppose works great for a suspense novel.

"I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves."  (p188)

So two pieces of contrasting information there - slightly.

The article in Writing Magazine is looking at creating a story through a questioning process and putting it onto index cards so you can spread out your story and move stuff around etc. I admittedly don't work like that, though maybe I should - I tend to make lists on my PC.  Stephen King still says ask the questions, if an idea pops into your head, but as you write, let the characters do it their way.  Sometimes it goes the way he'd visualised it, sometimes it doesn't.  I can agree with that too, as I've had scenes/ideas pop out of nowhere which the character has helped lead.

I suppose this is a case of taking what you can from advice and using what works for you.  I'm not great at sitting down and outlining a story, but sometimes that just feels like wasted time, I want to write it, damn it!  I can brainstorm a little, or if (while doing the washing up or in the shower) an idea comes in my head, I'm quick to note it down, and in my little head I'll be expanding that scene or playing it over and over.  But I have stared at a blank screen and created the next chapter, scene, or even 1,000 words to a short story.

So how do you write?  If I've understood this all correctly, and admittedly, I feel a bit of a novice at all of this, never sure if I'm understanding things correctly about plot lead or character lead (I may have misunderstood Stephen King), but it seems I'm a cross between 'seats of the pants' writer, and a bit of a planner.

All I know is that I like - and love - to write.


  1. I start out with a general idea and go from there, very much seat of the pants writing. I work it out as I go along. The vague ideas form into firm ones and as I get to know my characters, the story starts to write itself. Quite often I sit there typing in astonishment as my characters go off on a tangent. Writing for me is very instinctive. My best plot ideas have come in my sleep, funnily enough and as long as I listen to that little inner voice, things slot into place somehow.
    My latest ms proving the point. I *really* struggled with the first chapter, the next two were easier, but finally by chapter five things are clicking into place and I can see the ending. HEA of course :-)

  2. Thanks, Doris. Yes, I found that with The Wedding Favour. I had scenes that sort of came out of nowhere, and for a while I was considering changing the name, and then (thanks to James and his new girlfriend in the story) I managed to tie in the theme of the title of the novel in the very last chapter. So it's staying now... unless some editor wanted to change it (but think that's way off though lol!).


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