Every time I talk to folks about writing, invariably people assume I just sit down and start typing a story from beginning to end. Everything created in the proper sequence and order, all the twists and turns and complexities coming ‘on the fly’. There are probably people out there who DO write that way, but I am most definitely not one of them.
The best comparison to how I write is how a movie is shot: in smaller pieces of the whole that are created independently. After my planning and background work is finished I will create a list of scenes that make up the story itself–in the case of DockRat that is roughly 55 scenes (actually, it started at 58). These scenes are then divided into chapters, parts and acts, but only in a fairly general way as the real details have yet to come. I have a basic vision for each scene that is described in its topic/summary (1 line, maybe 12-15 words), but that’s about it for detail at this stage.
Those scenes are slotted together into a basic outline…but it is an outline that will see many, many changes as things go. Once I have that outline, and a basic timeline, I start working…err, well, I start drinking. Then I sober up. Then I start working.
I do NOT write those scenes in anything resembling ‘chronological order’. To be honest, I don’t write them in any logical order at all–I write whatever my mood and interest calls for at that particular moment. Mood and music are the keys to me and how I work (music is a later post, and is very important to me)…I learned the hard way by once trying to write a battle scene while fairly pensive and listening to Mozart. That didn’t work too well.
I get the strangest looks when I tell people that. “You mean you don’t know what happened BEFORE this particular scene?”
Err…well…no. Not in detail. Sorry.
I do, however, create a pretty detailed ‘background’ document for each scene. That prep sheet has all the basic info for setting, characters involved, timing, etc…and also includes details (as far as I know) on what has happened in the scenes before, as well as the tone/voice I want to use, and what the intent/purpose is behind that particular scene. That sheet can be even longer than the actual scene in some cases.
Hey, it works for me. Get your own system.
The downside, however, is that when the entire manuscript has been written and beaten into what I consider ‘first draft’ form, I still have not actually looked at it as a singular story. Not until I have the first draft copy, and I enter the living hell that is revising and editing, do I read it as a complete story.
And yes, that means discrepancies, screw-ups and oversights like to rear their ugly heads from time to time. I try to catch most of that in the planning process, but I’m about as far from perfect as you can get–and that, to be honest, is what editing is for.
As I write the first draft of this post (I edit these posts once, and that’s it), I have written 75% of DockRat. I still have 13 scenes left to create (about 24,000 words)…and, yes, they are scattered all over the book.
Edit Note – I took a while to make the editing pass over this. The manuscript for DockRat is now done…..err, well, mostly done. I have edited it a couple of times for content, and am pretty content with my structure. My beta-readers have it in their hands right now, and I am hoping to get some feedback from them fairly quickly. Regardless of that, however, I am letting the MS ‘ferment’ for a couple of weeks before the final editing pass.