So this is the thing. When you get a group of authors together for any length of time, the topic of conversation will invariably turn to sex. I MEAN. Writing process.
(… also sex. But that’s another post.)
“Everyone should do THIS,” one author will gush. “I always [outline to the nth degree/pants it all/fast draft/go through 34839743 revisions/draft in quill and parchment] and it works every time!”
Well, bully for you. No, really. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you. That’s great!
But I’m not you. And what works for you could be the kiss of death for me.
I’m a short story writer. I can pants a short story in a few days, and a novella in not much longer. If I have a decent story idea and a couple of well-formed characters, I can cough up 10k in no time.
Set a 60,000-word minimum in front of me, and it’s an entirely different story. So to speak.
I cannot pants a novel. I’ve tried. I have several (for high values of “several”) projects that sit forlorn, shunted off to the side, because I don’t have the foggiest freakin’ idea where they’re supposed to go next. I can start a story just fine. I might even be able to write an ending for it. But those fiddly little bits in the middle will trip me up every time.
Unless I write a synopsis first.
No, wait! Don’t run away! Hear me out!
I know how much authors hate writing synopses. The only thing that gets close to as many complaints from the authors I know is writing blurbs. And actually, the very first thing I write for a story is a blurb, but I don’t worry about making it non-sucky. I’ll probably spend a little time figuring out the main characters, too. But it’s writing a synopsis that takes a story from a passing thought to Srs. Bznss.
Writing the synopsis before writing the story kills two birds for me. It serves as an outline for the story, and it saves me from having to write a synopsis from scratch after I finish the story. Does the synopsis hold up intact? Nope. Never. Stories take on a life of their own. Characters do crazy things. But the synopsis isn’t carved in stone. It can be revised at any point—before, during, or after the story is written and revised.
For my first novel, Sand & Water, I wrote a synopsis of about 2,500 words, and nearly all of that ended up in the book. But as it turned out, that was only about two thirds of the story. I had a few ideas in mind for a possible sequel, but I realized as I wrote that those parts needed to go into that book. So they did, and I added all that to the synopsis.
For the novel I just finished drafting, Unfortunate Son, I had more experience under my belt and a better idea of what it would take to tell the story. I wrote the first few chapters before I wrote the synopsis, and it took a few tries and some time to get the story to flow the way it needed to. Once I had that locked in pretty well, I was able to actually finish the book. (Though I still have some things to add to both book and synopsis before they’re finalized.)
I started writing original fiction four years ago. It’s taken me this long to figure out a novel-writing process that actually seems to work for me. It’s never an exact science, of course. Every story is different. But now I have a place to start from, and it’s getting the synopsis out of my head and onto the page.
So, here are SHAE’S TEN STEPS TO WRITING A STORY:
- Get story idea
- Write blurb
- Develop main characters
- Write full synopsis
- Write story draft
- Revise story
- Revise synopsis
- Revise blurb
Will this work for anyone else? I have no idea. I just know that it works for me. And so I’ll keep doing it, until and unless it falls apart completely, or something that works better comes along.
So go ahead and talk process with other authors! Maybe you’ll give someone an idea, or get one from someone else. Just don’t expect anyone else’s process to work exactly like yours. As long as you get the same results in the end—a finished story—nothing else really matters. 🙂
Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net