Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How I Write

From Ideas to Completed Project

Everyone has a different approach to writing. Jeff Ambrose just posted a short note on how he massages ideas into various stories. Read his slant on the matter and see what you think. I believe whatever works for you is great. But if you need help getting off dead center, then experiment - try different approaches to getting a story from brain to paper. Dean Wesley Smith, for example, is in the midst of a 100 short story challenge and he starts with a title and goes from there. 

A lot of times I will just start writing based on an intriguing scenario. I simply start off with an opening hook (usually in media res) that grabs a reader’s attention. Well, my attention anyway. :) And then I fill out that opening scene or develop the main character in order to get the story going and until I run out of steam (usually at 500 to 1000 words). :) At this point I let my story idea(s) simmer a bit (and maybe gather more ideas) and return to the manuscript later with a basic plot and very often an ending in mind. 

This second step can come on the heels of writing my opening hook or many weeks later – or even longer! If you've seen my WIP list, you know I have a bunch of story starts just waiting around for my subconscious brain to return to them. Now, if I know the ending then I can power through on my third swipe at the story and maybe have something worth reading by the time I come up for air. Ambrose calls this the 'idea honing' stage. If I don’t know the ending of the story, I’ll just keep cycling back (I edit as I go) until I get there and discover what just happened. If I'm happy with the result, it's a wrap. If not, I go back and simmer.

That’s my current approach, at any rate. It may change as I move from short stories to novellas and on to novels. How do you go about the writing process?


  1. Sounds basically like what I do most of the time. Old, one-sentence "Twilight Zone" synopses are a fertile idea ground for me. However, I have also had some luck doing the Dean Wesley Smith route by making a story fit a title. "The Alabama Hammer," "Doomsday Falls on a Tuesday This Year," and "The Bloody Bucket" are examples of when I've gone title-first.

  2. Interesting. Yeah, I'm not at all certain my current way of approaching ideas and stories will continue - as I grow as a writer, I imagine the whole process will change here and there and maybe radically. It'll be fun to find out!

  3. Great information, I've been trying to find another approach for writing since mine has gotten me with lots of blank pages. Thanks for the ideas.


Keep it clean and positive. (And sorry about the word verification, but the spmb*ts are out in full force!)