The writing methods summarized in this series were actually in preparation for this entry. Since my method is a concoction of the methods previously mentioned, you might find it useful to refer to them first:
- Part 1: Writing Method: Snowflake by Randy Ingermanson (Printable Summaries)
- Part 2: Writing Method: 7-Point System by Dan Wells (Printable Summaries)
- Part 3: Writing Method: Writing into the Dark (Pantsers) by Dean Wesley Smith
Although it’s not necessary to read them, I felt it was only right to credit the individuals from whom I
pilfered derived inspiration.
I am not a published author, so these are not the words of a professional.
But I do love writing and it has taken me quite a while to figure out the best way for me to write. And that way ended up being…messy. Which is certainly not short of shocking for a control freak like me. As well as a bit counter-intuitive. (But I guess if you really think about it…not really.)
Regardless, I share this with the hope that it might provide some insight for you. Maybe you think you should work one way, when in fact working in a completely opposite way might be more conducive to your creative process.
If you’re brave enough to give it a try, here’s what seems to have worked for me:
1. Dump Your Brain
Or…instead of throwing your brain in a dumpster, you can try writing out everything that’s in it regarding your story idea. Try to avoid going into too much detail, unless they come to you easily. If something happens that you don’t understand right away, accept it and just keep going. If, however, the why comes to you easily, write it down. At this stage, what’s important is that you get everything out and not stop the flow of ideas.
That is, until you hit a wall.
Hitting a wall is a good sign that you should stop and organize everything you’ve gotten out so far because right now, there may be too many things going on and you’re probably starting to lose track of the story.
So in order to bring some method to the madness, lead the story through the 7-point method (or your preferred story structuring method) to figure out its skeletal structure. If your mind drifts to other ideas and scenes while you’re doing this, take the time to write them out. But keep going back to the 7-point method until you’ve figured out the major points.
3. Tell Your Story
Tell the story from the very beginning. This time around, the aim is not to get everything out, but to tell the story as if you’re telling it to a friend. That means it’s somewhat organized and somewhat coherent. But not completely rich in detail. Just covering the events, maybe explaining some of the emotions, and sometimes sharing bits of the setting or notable dialogue. In other words, TELLING not SHOWING.
4. Let it Grow
The large story summary/synopsis you’re working on will eventually grow into the novel itself. So while you start off ‘telling a friend the story’, don’t be afraid to let it grow and add details if it comes to you. (Spot a pattern yet? Never interrupt the flow of ideas.)
For example, sometimes you might go off on a tangent or go more into detail about a particular part in the story. Those kinds of things wouldn’t necessarily happen if you were telling the story to a friend, but that’s okay. Don’t stop yourself. Explore the ideas and see where they lead you.
5. Incorporate Your Notes
If your story synposis hasn’t grown too big for you to keep track of at this point, now’s the time to go back to your notes and ensure you’ve inserted everything that’s required.
Your notes may continue to grow and change, but from this point on, for the most part, add your ideas directly into the story synopsis itself. This ‘synposis’ is actually the embryo of your story. Eventually, as you keep adding to it, it will grow into your full-fledged novel.
6. Cut Off Developed Scenes
In the process of growing, some parts of the story will start to qualify as scenes. They may not have all the dialogue or descriptions, but they will be detailed enough so that they can be separated from the synopsis.
Separating a scene is easy to do on Scrivener. You can split the synopsis into two at the location of the scene you want to extract. Create a new note between the two halves and insert the semi-developed scene. The purpose of giving it its own note is so that you can employ the reverse outline method on the scene and write a brief description on the index card.
If I were doing this on a normal word processer, I would probably have a title for the scene and write out a description of it (along with its title) onto a post-it note or index card (for future rearrangement flexibility).
Separating scenes from the overall synopsis (but still keeping it nestled), will help keep the story manageable when the synopsis has gone from being a large summary to an actual novel full of scenes and chapters.
7. Keep It Alive
If your storytelling grows to be lengthy/unruly and you find yourself losing track of what’s going on, you can either:
- Keep going until you’re absolutely stuck (staying true to the ‘never interrupt the flow of ideas’ principle) or;
- If you’re afraid of the amount of uncertainty surrounding the story (i.e., you have gaping plot holes you feel you need to cover before they derail your efforts), you should stop now, ditch the storyteller’s hat and jump back into your planning pants.
Once you’re comfy cozy in those planner pants, you’re again faced with 2 choices:
- Go back to your 7-point skeleton and try to fill in more of the puzzle pieces. Ask yourself what happens BETWEEN those points. By now there should already be a list of scenes that run between them. But is there anything you’re missing? What hole needs to be plugged? What’s left unexplained? What loose plot strings are still blowing happily in the wind?
- Take your story through the Snowflake Method (or any other method of your choosing). It doesn’t have to go through the entire process. You can just work on the character charts or try writing out the synopsis the way Ingermanson (i.e., the ‘Snowflake guy’) suggests. Or you can choose an entirely different writing method I haven’t covered. The purpose of this is to help you approach your story from a fresh angle and keep it going again until you reach the finish line.
This process essentially requires you to oscillate between writing and planning. Write out everything you know about the story. Stop and organize the mess. Then write as if you’re telling the story to a friend so that you have a bird’s eye view of everything and you’re not bogged down by the details. Keep it growing. Write out of order, develop whatever strikes your fancy, separate the passages that start to look like a scene and write a note of it. Anytime you get stuck, try to fill out more of your notes or lead the story through another method to get a fresh prespective.
And above all, keep writing!
What do you do differently? What does your story writing process look like? Do you have an unique approach to writing that you haven’t seen anywhere else? Would love it if you shared below!