Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Keeping it close to the vest

When you have an idea for a book or story, do you tell people about it? How do you start writing? Do you think about it for a while? Write notes immediately? Think about the character first? Or plot first? Outline?

by Dietrich

I keep a story to myself while it’s taking shape. It’s not so much that it’s a secret, but it’s a work in progress. Everything’s still building at this point, and there’s not much to tell. So, I don’t look for a lot of outside input; I just want the story and characters to evolve, and I want see where it all leads.

My stories usually start with an idea for a single scene, and I just start writing and let one scene take me to the next, and I let that first draft roll out from there. By the time I’ve got the second draft finished, I might ask those closest to me what they think about a particular scene or get their input on some titles ideas. But, for me, writing is basically a solo effort, and once I feel I’ve polished a final draft and done my best, then I submit it to my publisher and leave the rest in their more than capable hands.

I often have ideas for the next story while I’m working on the last one. I’ve even tried writing two stories simultaneously, alternating between drafts. There are some advantages, like setting one story aside for a while and looking at it with fresh eyes when I come back to it. But, working like this did make me feel like a machine, so I’ve gone back to just writing one at a time.

I usually have notes all over the place. When I think of something I want to include but can’t use it immediately I scribble notes and let these bits of paper stack on my desk, using them when I find the right spot. Sometimes the notes just end up in the bin, and sometimes I tuck them in a file and save them for another story.

The scene comes first, then I come up with the character(s) I’d like to see in that particular situation, and everything just takes shape through the first draft.

I don’t plot the story out ahead of time. I usually don’t see more than a scene or two ahead during that first draft. I like to think working like this gives me something better than if I sat down and plotted the whole thing out ahead of time. It gives me a chance to build the story and get to know the characters early on. And it allows for those surprises that come along through the writing. Maybe if I wrote a very complex story, I might map it out beforehand.

As it is, once I’ve got that initial draft, I put together a timeline of events and character sheets before I go on to a second pass. It’s not the only way to do it; it’s just what works for me.


Paul D. Marks said...

I pretty much work like you, Dietrich. Kind of building and layering. Though sometimes I'll start with a situation or scene and sometimes with a character, but the rest of the method is very similar.

Brenda Chapman said...

I join Paul in saying that your method, Dietrich, is a lot like mine. Thanks for giving a peak into your creative process.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks Paul and Brenda. That way works best for me too, and as Paul says it allows for building and layering. Maybe if I wrote a mystery, where something needed to be solved, a more detailed plot might be the way to go.

Susan C Shea said...

Yes, Dietrich, that's a good way to work and I do it pretty much the same way. I have to know who did what and generally why, but I have been known to morph the villain and her or his rationale a few times in the process!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Susan.