Earlier this week I completed a manuscript. I feel equal parts relief that I’m done, excitement because I can start another project, and sadness because although they’re not real, I know the characters just as well as I know myself. I’ll miss them because it feels like I’m leaving them behind.
I’ve had some people ask me where I get my ideas. Truth is, I don’t have an answer for that. I get them everywhere – from the news, from overhearing conversations around me. I love playing the “what if” game. I mostly get ideas when I’m not looking. Song lyrics can spark an idea, and sometimes it’s difficult for me not to abandon my current project and switch to another. Writing with two names it’s easy to do. I’ve gotten much better at sticking with my current WIP, only starting something new once the other is completed. One thing I can feel assured in is that I’ll never run out of ideas.
Before I start something new, I look through my long file where I’ve compiled ideas. Here I have potential titles for future books, ideas where I just write a sentence or two, or in some instances, entire paragraphs devoted to the story. I’m constantly adding to this file. Whether I’ll use the idea or not all depends on what I’ve written down. Thankfully I’m the only one who reads this messy file with all my odd notes and blurbs. LOL I’ve been fortunate enough to remember the jist of the original idea. Even if I don’t use it, I might flesh out an idea before moving on.
Once I find something that holds my interest, the real fun begins. I love fleshing out my characters. I’ll write an autobiography for my hero and heroine letting them tell me their story. It’s amazing the things you’ll find by just closing your eyes and letting your characters guide you. It’s a fun way to learn their back story, their values, and experiences with past relationships. This information is good in helping you discover their goals, motivations, and conflicts.
I’m neither a plotter nor a panser. I tend to fall in the middle between both. Therefore, after I’ve fleshed out my characters, I move on to working out the main points of the story. While writing my hero and heroine’s life stories, I have a pretty good handle on their goals, motivations and conflicts (both external and internal.) Since I like letting the characters guide me through the story, I only figure out the main points, which for me are when the HH first meet, first kiss, first love scene, points of rising conflict, (which for me there are 3.) The turning point for the main character, (when either the he realize their original goal really isn’t what they truly wanted,) black moment and finally, the resolution.
I then write a rough draft of a synopsis. Some of you are probably cringing, but including a synopsis is required for many publishers depending on story-length and publisher. For me, writing one before I start the story acts as another guide for me to follow. I don’t revise and add more detail to the synopsis until after the story is done.
I know it seems like a lot, but I have to know where the story is going. I use this structure as a guide, but I let the characters tell the story. I have the freedom to create as I will, without feeling confined to one plot. If the story changes as I’m writing, I must, on a subconscious level, know where it’s going. However, as long as I stay on track with the plot points I’ve set down, anything can happen. It took me a while to understand this, and to not let it frig. I’ve had to learn, and am still learning through trial and error. What makes writing fun is we all have our process. The amazing thing is, with all our creative ways specific to each of us, we all manage to create wonderful stories that entertain and satisfy.
So, what’s your writing process? Are you a plotter or a panser? How do you familiarize yourself with your characters? Does your process change with each project? The process I’ve shared is the one I use for novellas and longer works, but if I’m going to write a short story I write a little down for the characters and get their goals, motivations, and conflicts. What is the most difficult part of the creative process for you? Is it your characters? Plotting?
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