I keep staring at the screen but nothing happens!
Writing, it’s as easy as sitting at your keyboard and bleeding continually until something good happens. I wish that were hyperbole. It really isn’t, though; writing is tough, writing is difficult, writing is occasionally terrifying. But writing is also immensely fun and satisfying if you stick at it. And writing comprises far more than the simple act of sitting at your keyboard and hammering on the keys.
Here, I’ll be sharing a bit of the process behind how I write and what goes into the whole business from start to finish. I’ll keep it reasonably brief, but hopefully you should have some decent idea of how much work actually goes into writing by the end of this post. Work that the average reader is rarely privy to.
The Process of Writing Stage 1: Preparation.
Now, hold your horses a moment there, put that keyboard down, it’s dangerous. Before the real business of writing can begin, there are a few things I’ll generally deal with first: planning, research, creating characters and settings, procrastinating, and drinking many cups of tea. Let’s dig into these briefly.
Some people plan, others wing it. I tend to sit in the middle, planning the overall structure but winging it for most of the individual scenes. If you’ve ever seen people talking about NaNoWriMo you’ll probably have heard these two referred to as planners and pantsers, as in writing by the seat of one’s pants.
What I plan is the main meat of the work; general structure of events, which girls end up in relationships and with whom, individual scenes I’d like to write, how this might tie into other parts of the work, and potential new settings/characters I may use later on.
Personally, I use simple notepad text files for my notes, but other people use programs like Scrivener or OneNote to collate and keep everything neat and tidy. I use separate files for each character, each part/book of a work, and for any other random things I may need to jot down.
These are my notes for Aida (left) and all my old drafts for Book 1 (right). Click for full-size.
Once initial planning is complete, I start on any research that may be required. If it’s a real world setting, deciding on an area of the country (or world) is probably a good idea. Looking up images for reference purposes, checking nearby areas for interesting locations/things I can use for scenes, using Google Streetview for getting a handle on street layouts and local businesses. And so on.
Alternatively, for something like Aida, which takes place on a new world, I’ll again be looking for good image references to base locations and characters on. But I’ll also start thinking of all the essential world building. Stuff like names, history, back stories, relationships old and new, economies in use, major historical events impacting current events, etc.
Then it’s onto the really fun part: characters! At this point it’s back to research. Figuring out interests for the girls, building a back story for each, establishing relationships, and anything else that might be necessary based on the world building I already worked on.
So that’s the planning stage. Though I’ll end up going back to my notes and editing, revising, adding new scenes, removing or changing things, and otherwise fiddling all through the process of writing, this stage just provides a useful basis to work from initially. This’ll be less necessary if you’re just writing a short one-shot story, however. But for an enormous planned-out work like Aida or Starlight? Yeah, this stuff’s essential.