Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Writing Process

I love DVDs. While I love the main feature (the movie), my favorite part is the behind-the-scenes feature. I love learning how and why a movie was made. The same goes for books. I love learning about the process that went on from conception to publication and all the steps and changes that happened along. So in that spirit, I thought I’d share my own writing process for those who are curious about where my stories come from.

Step 1: The Idea

I don’t sit down and say to myself, “Self, you must come up with an idea for a story.” Instead I go about my day working on websites and other work. During the normal course of a day, something will spark, and I write that spark down. I have over a dozen pages of story ideas. I look over these ideas from time to time and explore them in my mind. I’ll write down additional ideas, images, actions, themes, characters, possible titles, etc. that I think of with these, devoting a page to each major idea.

Step 2: The Basic Story

Once I've filled a page with enough raw material, I'll identify the most interesting threads and organize the other ideas around it. I'll create a loose plot so I have some notion of where the story may begin, where it may travel, and where it may end.

Step 3: Plot and Dialogue

Once a story emerges, I’ll write a very tight plot and dialogue. The format is similar to a movie script with the major actions spelled out, a lot of the dialogue written, and the major emotions or thoughts identified. This plot usually ends up getting restarted, rewritten, and resorted several times before it is finished. I think of it as the skeleton of the story. It tells me basically how long the work will be (so I know if it is a short story, a novel, a comic book, etc.) I also know who the characters are, what they will do, what their motivation is, what changes they will go thru, what the major conflicts are, and have a very tight story.

Step 4: First Draft

After all this work I’ll begin a handwritten first draft. This stage goes pretty quickly since the story is basically written, the conflicts worked out, and the characters well defined. I still make a lot of changes at this stage, but knowing the overall story in pretty good detail helps me keep everything consistent with revelations and discoveries happening at the right moments.

Step 5: Second Draft

Once the first draft is written, I begin the second draft which is when I type the story into the computer. Again I make a lot of changes as I go being both writer and editor. I mainly refine the story itself expanding undeveloped scenes and cut boring or unnecessary scenes.

Step 6: Refinement

Revision and refinement is mostly to work on the wording and clarify any writing, but I have been known to add a couple of chapters as this stage if the message wasn’t complete. I’ll usually make three passes correcting mistakes and working on wording. I have no interest in impressing readers with my extensive vocabulary or complex sentence structure. I try to make the writing as clear and efficient as possible without getting dry. I want the writing to be so smooth it just disappears leaving the reader with unfettered access to the story.

Step 7: Publish!

Finally I illustrate and publish. And wallah — a new story is born!

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