My writing process- Part 1, Planning
For some reason, people always want to know what author's writing process is. The big question is. Are you a pantser? Or a planner? Or a bit of a plantser?
I am definitely a planner... I completed one NaNoWriMo as a pantser... And it started out fun just winging it. But eventually it got stressful trying to figure out what to write next.
So here's my process....
I start with some sort of idea. I have a bunch of ways I generate ideas, but that's probably a whole post on its own. Sometimes it's an idea for a world. Sometimes a character. Sometimes, like this year's NaNoWriMo, it's an idea for a particular scene. I actually came up with the whole idea from this Lindsay Stirling video. When I'm coming up with ideas, I like to do it on paper, not the computer. I'm not sure why. I usually have some sort of notebook that I jot them in. I've been trying really hard to keep a notebook by my bed incase I come up with ideas when I'm laying in bed trying to fall asleep. But I don't always remember.
I am obsessed with cute notebooks.... but I suck at actually using them. I want to be one of those fancy authors who carries around a special notebook and gets ideas from everywhere, jotting bits of an overheard conversation or a description of a particulalry interesting place... but I haven't gotten there yet. I do have a bunch of cute notebooks though.
Once I have an idea. I open up a new file (I now use Google Docs because I like having easy access from any computer and knowing it's automatically saved in the cloud.) And I make 3 headings "Characters" "Setting" and "Plot". Under each one. I jot whatever I can think of so far to get a sort of very rough sketch going. It's really just brainstorming. I continue going back to this every time I have a new idea throughout the whole process. I also put in links to places I've gotten information from if I don't feel like copying the whole thing in. At some point I also make it into a more traditionally formatted outline organizing my bullets into subcategories under each category.
Once I have as much as I can think of, I begin using the Snowflake Method developed by Randy Ingermanson. If you don't know what the snowflake Method is, go read his blog page about it here. He has spelled it out so nicely for you, with his witty voice, that there's no reason for me to retype it all.
I open a new Google doc called "snowflake method-plot" and I follow the first few steps of this method until it gets to the character part. My favorite thing about using Google docs is that because it is web based, each document has a we address. Which means I can insert them into other word docs as links! So in my initial "character, setting, plot" document, I will make a bullet under plot, that is just a link to the snowflake Method document. It's almost like a wiki but it's all housed in my Google drive.
When I get to the character stage of snowflake Method, I open up (you guessed it!) A new Google Doc, this one titled "snowflake Method- characters" then I hop back and forth between the plot and characters docs, until I get to the point where Ingermason suggests creating a spreadsheet of scenes.
So I open up... a Google Sheets file! I add it as a link on my snowflake-plot doc, and begin a true outline. I love using the "3 Act structure." I love this post here breaking down each chapter in a 3 act structure by using the Hunger Games. I write in the YA fantasy genre, and am familiar with the story, so it is a good comparison for me to figure out my story.
On my spread sheet. I create one column that lists where I am withing the 3 act structure (if you don't know, 3 act structure uses 27 chapters. 3 acts, broken into 3 blocks, with 3 chapters in each block 3x3x3=27):
Then my next column is for a description of what each part of the 3 act structure is meant to be.
Then in the next column I write a brief synopsis of what the chapter is about (1-2 sentences)
The next column is who's POV it is from.
And recently I added a column for Thematic elements I want to use for each chapter. These I don't always fill in right away because I let the theme develop as I write. I go back and fill this in as I get ideas I don't want to forget about. Then after my first draft I will make sure to add at least one thing to the column for every chapter. When I do my first revision, I will look for specific places to put them in.
At this point of the planning stage, I will drop the snowflake Method for a bit, and do some solid world building. I used to try and build the whole world before the plot, but having a solid idea of the characters and plot helps me build a better world that is relavant to the story and not waste time with too much extraneous world building. I love world building and I could get lost in it for way too long if I don't have focus, and I would never get to the story.
So world building? Yeah let's see:
At this point, I draw a rough sketch of a map, write in any important places I already thought of, and make up other places I think I'll need. I also will add notes under setting in my original brainstorming doc. For my Toraelium Rebellion series, I didn't have any prethought out ideas for my kingdom, so I used this random map generator website to create the kingdom. Then I uploaded it as a Google Drawing and added the text on top. I eventually plan to learn how to use Inkarnate to make better maps.
I just recently discovered this cool web based program called notebook.io and it is awesome for world building! Its kind of hard to explain how it works but basically you create a "universe" and the "planets" that exist within it and the countries or kingdoms or whatever within it. And each knew "thing" that you create has a set of sections within it such as questions about the government or culture or people etc. to fill in info about. As well as you can create creatures and races and magic systems and whatever else is relavant to your world and link them all together. It's really neat. I am only just figuring it out though.
And at this point, when my world is as fleshed out as I can think of, I begin to write. I will constantly go back and edit all my Google Docs and Spreadsheets and world building stuff as I write and discover new things. But mostly, at this point, I move into drafting mode. I think I will actually make a separate post about that. So stay tuned.
And don't forget to subscribe to my page for updates on my writing as well as access to my members' page and Coming Soon- The Three Princesses of Selmy Island a Novella that outlines how the Kingdom of Toraelium from my upcoming trilogy was founded. This Novella will be free to all my subscribers!
Read my post about "What I am working on now" here for more information on The Three Princesses and my upcoming trilogy.
And check back soon for part 2 of my Writing Process.