Some Of The How…

I’ve done some squirrel posts lately…and some more ‘big picture’, philosophical posts…but it occurs to me that what I have not done lately is a post about the writing process itself.

You know, what this blog is supposed to be about.  So, this one’ll be focused on the how of my writing, rather than the what and why.

I’ve mentioned before that my outline for a story is a listing of all the scenes it contains. As of right now, Silence is looking to come out at roughly 125,000 words for the first draft. Although that number is based on 60ish scenes, I won’t really have a final number until Acts I and IV are pretty much done, and I’ve then finalized Acts II and III.

All that aside, what I really wanted to talk about is writing scenes. You know, the actual, real writing part of writing . Everything else is to support this bit: creating the dang story.

This is why I got into this in the first place – to write! This is the part that has all the personal reward…and all the emotional ups and downs of living intimately with your characters and your story.

This is also when I get fairly obsessive: every spare minute is writing the story, doing the planning necessary to write the story, or thinking about writing the story.

That planning is key. What I list below may sound like a pain in the ass, but it really, really helps me to stay on track as far as the plot and characters are concerned.

Now, remember: I do not (generally) write scenes in the order they appear in the story. I write what I need to write that day…and sometimes I write what I need to write in order to understand the story itself (i.e. doing the final scene first).

This is a short list of the notes I write for each scene – it sounds like a lot, but it’s actually only about 400-500 words in total:
1) Background – general thoughts for the scene. Since this is sci-fi, I track “real world” reference material here, as well as preparatory research (prison culture and dynamics for the beginning of Silence, etc…).
2) Set-Up – the actual specifics leading to the scene. Especially what has happened to the characters up to that point, and what they are thinking/feeling as the scene opens. This is the key to writing the scenes out of order…without doing this I might end up using a character who has, ahem, already died…
3) Setting – pretty self-explanatory.
4) Voice/Tone – in other stories this section tracks who is the actual POV/narrator. Since Connor is the sole POV for this series, I keep a quick note on his tone and feelings.
5) Characters – again, pretty self-explanatory.
6) Intent – Even if I skip the stuff above, I cannot and will not skip this bit. Every scene absolutely must serve the story! Every scene must advance the plot in some way. No, really…writing a scene that accomplishes nothing is, well, pointless. You must understand what you are trying to accomplish in the scene before you write the damned thing.
7) Outline – yep, you guessed it…I break the scene down and plan how it is going to go. For an average-length scene, I will have 6-8 steps thought out, including my projected word count for each. This is the “map” I use to keep myself on pace for the scene and story.

As a final note – the above is my personal guide, and is intended only to make the writing process easier. As I put the actual words and thoughts on the page, things can and will change. All of the prep and planning in the world is useless if you don’t write the story you want to write.

My characters can and will force me to change things…and that is a good thing. The story in your hands should be a living, breathing, evolving thing. BUT! … That story is also quite like a two-year-old kid: you love it, you cherish it, but you really don’t want to let it drive your car.

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