Monday, 4 May 2009

How Do You Write?

As a member of several author groups as well as writing critique groups, the question is often asked: How do you write a novel?

By this I don't think they mean open the laptop, settle down with a cup of coffee and then quietly open a vein, [or maybe I do!] but where do you start?

As a historical novelists, I am often asked if I complete all my research first, making copious notes to refer to throughout the writing process. Or do I look something up as it's needed?

Do I start with an opening scene and let the characters write the novel themselves as their thought process become part of me? Or do I set out a chapter by chapter structure with the goals and conflicts laid out in order to be strictly followed?

I have met, well some I have met, but most of them only virtually, both types of writers. The seat-of-the-pants type and the ones who use novel writing software to plan every conversation, dscription and piece of action. Then there are writers who have no idea where their characters will take them but are drawn into their world where the solutions miraculously evolve. Then ther are those who write the ending first and work backwards.

I'm a planner. I sketch out each chapter and list the scenes, decide where I am going and set off in that direction. I don't always end up where I expect to,. Sometimes my characters change and do some evolving of their own, so their roles become either more instrumental to the story or less so.

I'm not saying I have to work harder than those authors who formulate a basic idea and then let the words flow out of the end of their fingers, but in a way I envy them. So which kind of writer are you?


Jen Black said...

I voted. another question you might want to ask is how often do you change what you've written - especially the first few pages!

Dawn said...

As a newbie, this question fascinates me! I would say I have a general outline of the major events/conflicts/scenes, then flesh out my first draft from there.


Augustina Peach said...

For my first manuscript, I just started writing without any idea of how it was going to end. That effort produced a manuscript of 269,000 words, which took more than a year to edit into a reasonable book. This second time around, I am trying to be more focused. Like you, I've written a chapter by chapter outline. It's a flexible outline (I've already split one chapter on the outline into two), but I'm finding the guidance it provides is really helpful for me.

Carolin said...

Interesting question. I suppose I'm more the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type. I've got the seminal events worked out, also the main characters and most of the research, but how I get from A to B I let the characters (and sometimes the historical reality) decide. I'm still adding characters as I go, and do on the spot research when I need it.

kathryn said...

I am not a planner, except in the general sense of gathering ideas and then working them out as I go along. I envy the ability to execute a plot that has been well thought about, but any inspiration I might have comes in the process of writing. The good part is that the writing is an adventure--I never quite know what I will discover from day to day; the bad part is that I end up tossing drafts and beginning anew until I hit upon what I am looking for in terms of tone and so on.