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How Do I Write a Story?

People sometimes ask me “How do you write a story? Do you write in chronological order? How many drafts do you write? Where do you get your ideas? How long does it take? How do you do it?”

Let me start by saying every writer will have different answers to these types of questions. And there are no right or wrong answers. What I am going to say pertains to me and the way I write. Your mileage, and that of every other writer, may vary.

 

1. Where do you get your ideas?  Well, I don’t know. That’s not very informative, is it? Sometimes an idea will just spring into my head. For example, I was idly wondering how Rose will react to a certain thing that Sky does (I’m trying to not give spoilers here) and her reaction sprang into my head and made me laugh. Because I was totally not expecting that, but it fits perfectly. Or sometimes I’ll watch a movie and something in a scene or a character will make me think: “That’s cool!” and I’ll branch off of it.

 

2. Do you write in chronological order? Yes, almost always. The exceptions are when the idea for a scene come to me and I’ll quick jot it down, usually in brief outline. However, there is an exception to that, too, like the proposal scene in Tracking Tami. I ended up writing it in detail because it seemed so clear in my head and I didn’t want to forget it.

 

3. How many drafts do you write? As many as I think I need. For instance,  I wrote four drafts of Sleeping With the Wolf before submitting it.  The first draft I wrote for some friends at work. They really liked it and said I should submit it somewhere. I ended up doing quite a bit of chopping and re-arranging, as I had written one story that told both Carla & Taye’s and Lisa & Eddie’s stories in one manuscript. The second draft was pretty choppy and uneven. The third draft I thought was pretty good so I had some other friends do a read through and give me their take on it. The fourth draft incorporated their suggestions. Of course, the editor at Liquid Silver had me do further revisions, which produced a story I’m proud of.

 

4. How long does it take? Too long. Actually I wrote my first draft of the story of Sleeping With the Wolf/Eddie’s Prize (Originally titled Carla & Lisa, Prize Brides) in only about 2 months, but I wasn’t trying to write super well. Wolf’s Glory took me seven months. Tracking Tami took me five months (and it’s not really done. I’ll have one more draft to do before I turn it in)

 

5. How do you do it? Well, that’s a pretty vague question. Here’s my rather lengthy answer:

     A. I get home from work, pour a mountain dew or a cup of coffee and sit down and type. Sometimes I’m on fire with a great scene I’m dying to get down. Sometimes I’m just slogging along on something that I know I’ll have to re-write. I sometimes tell myself I have to write until I finish a scene. Sometimes I have a word count that I shoot for.

     B. After I finish a first draft I try to leave it alone for a couple of weeks while I either work on something else or knit or haul out my spinning wheel to spin. The point of that is when I come back to the story it will be fresh. When I’m writing a story, I’m so involved that I never leave it. The scenes and characters are always with me. I’m so close that I can’t see it clearly. When I put it away for a while and then come back I’ll see it with fresh eyes and I can tell (hopefully) where a scene isn’t working or a character isn’t behaving like himself.

      C. I write the second draft to correct things and add more to fill in gaps. Then I send it to some friends (a lot of writers call them betas, because they are the second set of eyes to read the story). They read it and then send it back with comments like “Why does your hero do this?” and “Chapter 12 seems kind of boring. Nothing really happens”  and “The whole scene where the heroine does X needs more showing and less telling” etc.

     D. I write the third draft, taking into account the betas’ suggestions. I call this the polishing draft. When I think it’s as good as I can make it I am ready to submit it. And that is a whole other blog post!

One Response to How Do I Write a Story?

  • It always fascinates me reading about other writer’s processes. We’re actually fairly similar in the way we do things. I write from start to finish, only occasionally writing a scene because I know exactly what happens. My girlfriend writes a set of scenes and fits them together. I tried that one time and got so stressed I had to reach for a glass of wine. I learned my lesson. Stick to what works for you!

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