Monday, November 12, 2012

How Do You Do It? by Jennifer Faye

Welcome to Mechanics on Monday…

Grab your coffee, tea or your choice of caffeine, pull up a comfy seat and join me.

With this being Monday, my favorite weekday, it marks the beginning of a seven day journey to see what we can accomplish. And for me, beginnings are always so exciting.
So now let's get down to business. How do you do it? How do you begin a story?

Have you ever taken time to contemplate your first step? Do you have a process that works best for you? Or do you just dive in and see what happens?

With my first contracted book firmly underway, it’s time to set my sites on a new adventure. I love this part of the writing process when everything is so sparkly and shiny. The possibilities are endless. And the way from A to Z has countless possibilities.

Hence the question: How do you do it?

I guess it’d depend on which camp you hang out in. Some writers call themselves a pantster and others plotters. I think most writers are a blend of varying degrees. I know I am. J

A long time ago, I started off writing as a total pantster. I followed my characters anywhere they wanted to lead me…even into brick walls. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that I’d get further along if I didn’t spend so much time bouncing off walls and taking timeouts to hunt down the aspirin for my invariable headache. LOL.

And I began creating a writing process for myself. Lots of trial and error. Eventually I found that my first order of business was to write a short synopsis and character background. I find it so much easier to write the broad strokes of a story before I get mired in the intriguing details of the story. Not saying it’s easy to pull a beginning-to-end synopsis out of thin air, but in my case, it’s worth the effort.

From there I move on to a detailed outline. I tried skipping this step with a book I wrote this summer. I was in a hurry and I figured I had the synopsis so how hard could it be. I did okay for a while, but I noticed my pace kept slowing every day until I hit that blasted brick wall again. I knew this wall. I’d definitely been here before.

So much for deviating from my process. I was paying the price.

Only this time I knew the solution. I had to back up and get with my process. I took a time out from staring at my stalled out draft and outlined the ending of my story. From there, my fingers had a hard time keeping up with my mind. And in no time I was typing “The End.”

Now don’t get me wrong, when I write the actual story, my H/h will take detours from my outline/synopsis, but it’s an easy fix to go back and update the synopsis. In fact, my synopsis gets lots of updating, but the basic structure pretty much stays the same.

Everyone’s process is different. And I’d love to hear about yours. As no process is set in stone, it evolves as the writer evolves. And I’m always on the lookout for something to add, tweak or change in my process.

So how do you do it? How do you get from the beginning to end?


  1. I am a total pantster. I let the characters go where they want but the more I am involved in writing communities, I am having to tweak my pantster attitude. It makes it easier to deal with. So to answer you question , right now I wing it. I am however evolving a little every time I sit down to write!

    1. Hi. Thanks so much for stopping by. :-)

      I totally hear you. I think every writer evolves as they set out on this journey. I know I'm making changes and tweaks to the things I do. And thinking of new things I should incorporate on the next book.

  2. I used to be a pure pantser but my process has altered somewhat over the years. Beginnings are much easier for me so now, I pants the first 3-4 chapters, the plot the the rest of the story. Although for my current book, I've written a paragraph each of what I expect to happen in each chapter and it seems to be working for me. Okay...have I confused you yet? My process is a mess, lol, but it works for me :)

    1. LOL. A little confused. But if it gets you from point A to point Z then it's a process that works for you. And that's the important part.

      Everyone is different. It's finding what works that can be the challenge. Glad you found it. :-)

  3. It sounds like my process has evolved very much like yours. But how it begins is always random and surprising. Listening to a song, watching a commercial, taking a drive. I agree, I love the beginning, it's my favorite, where one slice of coincidence soon becomes a tale.

    Love your post, Jennifer.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post!!! :-)

      I totally agree, how it starts is a mystery. The spark of an idea can come from anywhere and then I'm saying what sort of person would be in that situation. Followed by the "what if" game that I always play with my stories.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting!

  4. Hi, Jenn. I bet you'd never guess from reading my stuff, but I'm an admitted pantster. I should try it your way ... I'd probably get things done a lot faster (and better).

    My current WIP, the holiday novella, started with a Christmas carol and one of the towns I created in Northwestern Indiana.

    1. Hi, Arlene. Thanks for dropping in!

      So you're a pantster. Hmm...wouldn't have guessed. You're stories are great. And your novella sounds awesome. I have a big ole soft spot for holiday romances. :-)

  5. Hi, Jennifer. I like an outline - a sparse one initially but one that pinpoints all the key turning points in terms of character and plot development. That's when I know if I have a story or not. I then tend to let the characters lead me. I try to steer them in the direction I need them to go but if they come up with a better alternative, I go with them. I think that becomes easier the better you get to know them. It also makes the story less rigid and more plausible. Thanks for choosing a great topic! :-)

    1. Hi, Lindsay! So glad you liked the topic. I like to write about where I am in my process. And at this point in time I'm at the beginning of a new story. The sparkly new stage. :-)

  6. Hi. Thank you so much for this interesting topic. I am currently working on my first novel. I began by writing a short synopsis around 800 words. Then, I wrote brief sketches for all the important characters in the story. After that, I skimmed briefly on areas that needed researching and ordered some books to enhance my knowledge on these fields. I am currently reading one of these books now in depth to see whether my theories (the ones required for the book) are correct?

    I tried diving in to see what happens while writing the first chapter, but it’s a complete disaster. I am just wasting precious time. Structuring a detailed outline before commencing each chapter is definitely a time saver for the long run.

    I do believe ― like you said ― that outlining the end of the story definitely helps. It helped me while writing a brief outline for every chapter in the book, especially when I was hesitant about certain stages in the story. My synopsis is also constantly getting updated, but that is much better than having to rewrite the chapter all over again.

    I do believe that the title has a big effect on the whole outcome of the story if the author is hugely inspired by it. If this is the case, the magic of the title should be demonstrated in the book. The title made me want to rewrite the whole chapter again and provided me with ideas for the perfect closure.

    I keep note cards whenever I think about significant details I would later add to my story. My ideas mostly come at night, so I keep my BlackBerry next to me. I added myself, so whenever the story writes itself in my mind, I immediately type it in. Then, I copy all the little details in my note cards. Each chapter should have its own note card. Organization is vital.

    Congratulations on getting your first novel published. I can’t wait to read it.

    1. Daawy, wow! Thanks so much for sharing. Loved reading about your process. My goodness you put me to shame with how organized you are. Really liked your idea about the notecards and Blackberry. Instead I have a legal pad where I jot down a brief note to deal with later. In my current WIP, I have a couple of pages of random notes to deal with later. :-)

      As for your first chapter, don't worry. I think it's hands down the hardest chapter to write. So much info to impart and keeping up the pace can be tricky to do. For me, it's the most rewritten/revised chapter in the book.

      Have you tried reading lots of books in the genre that you're writing to get a feel for how they set up their first chapter?

      I've learned the most about writing simply by reading what I love. :-) When I get busted sitting around reading, I tell my husband that I'm doing my homework. Talk about awesome homework. :-)

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing!!! It was great having you.

  7. It’s my pleasure. A pad is also a great idea. I’m sure when it’s time you’ll gather the notes and tie all the knots together. I wish you the best in all your future books :)

    Yes, it’s very hard. I’m taking a ‘write your own novel course.’ I have my storyline approved. It was a great feeling, especially since my tutor is very strict. But actually writing the first chapter is much harder than I expected. That is why I agreed with the authors above, a detailed outline will really help.

    I do read all the time and I always keep notes. I just hope it’s enough to write a decent first chapter! I found two interesting topics for two different books; I would love to contribute (short stories), so I might do that first before attempting to write that chapter again!

    Thank you for the advice and I absolutely agree with everything you have written. LOL you are so much like me. I continuously ask my husband to take me places in the name of ‘experiencing the atmosphere in order to write about it in the book’ ―in other words, homework! It is indeed very awesome! He makes fun of me whenever I do this! But it does help a lot, especially in describing the scenery.

    Thank you again for the interesting topic and thanks for having me. :)

    1. You are quite welcome!!! Good luck with your novel course. Having a tutor sounds like an amazing opportunity. Hope you learn lots.

      One other thing about writing the first chapter is to write past it and come back to it much later to revise. It really helps give you distance and a chance to know the characters a lot better.

      I like your idea of asking the husband to take me somewhere in the name of research. I'll have to try it. ;-)

      All the best with your writing. Keep me updated!