I was talking with Michi about her post and realized that while I’ve poked at it a bit recently, I have never actually sat down and worked through what my own actual writing process is.

So here goes.  I’m going to do a whole series of these because it would just be too stupidly long otherwise.  I am not interested in today being the day when I discover whether Tumblr posts have a character limit.

I am not saying that anything I do will necessarily work for anybody else.  This is just navel-gazing and—maybe, hopefully—it might provide some useful insights or ideas for at least one other person.  At worst nobody’s out more than a little bit of bandwidth.

I find I start best with a prompt—not just a prompt, but an idea that someone has expressed a particular desire for.  Something about knowing that somebody wants this story, that I’ll be making a specific (even if unnamed) person happy with it—that gets me going.  Maybe it feels like permission for me to write something that I might otherwise feel self-conscious about?

So I catch a prompt and a bunny appears in my head.  But when I say, ‘plot bunny,’ what do I really mean?  It starts with something like “wouldn’t it be great if,” but a really solid plot bunny also includes the beginning of a structure, doesn’t it?

Looking back, I’m not sure if the beginnings of structure always appear magically with the story idea, or if sometimes I have to go in search of one.  ”What do I want to happen?  How does this end?  What happens along the way?  Who’s in it?  Whose POV is it in? Do I want it to be happy or sad or creepy?”  Only a beginning to the many questions that can be asked here.

I think that in most cases, some of these things simply come to me, but I must have to hunt down the answers to some of those questions.  They can’t all just spring into my head full-formed.  And thinking back, I believe that each story idea provides me with different automatic answers.  They serve as a basis for me to figure out what I want from other questions.

I think that I am not always as great or thorough with this question/answer stage as I should be.  I get distracted easily; I want to start writing!  I’m excited!  And some of them I just don’t know…  ”Whose POV?  Oh gosh, do I have to decide?  Can’t I just start writing and find out?” (Well, I can but if I realize halfway through that I picked wrong then am I really going to want to go back and fix the whole damn thing?)

So, frequently—and the longer the story, the more likely this is to happen—I jump the gun and start writing before I know everything.

But I’m still not convinced it’s always bad to jump the gun, because I also know that if at some point I don’t force myself to move, I will simply get bogged down in answering questions until I have over-analyzed my idea to the point of boredom and no longer have any interest in writing it.

And yet, if I don’t do that prep, then chances are my story will fall apart halfway through and I’ll abandon it.

So this is a part of my process I am really trying to work on: how do I walk the line between doing the prep I should be doing, and not boring myself with it so that I lose interest in even trying.  

I do know that ONE of the functions of this stage is weeding out.  I get SO MANY plot bunnies, you know—don’t most of us?—and some of them are cool but they’re non-starters.  I have at least 50 half-finished drafts in my WIPs folder of stories I thought I had a bead on but they fizzled out, and those are only the ones that actually got the writing stage.  So poking and prodding and asking questions and maybe even write-doodling a bit…sometimes it shows you that a story just isn’t going to go anywhere, and your time is better spent elsewhere.

But then sometimes…I am still not sure whether the story was never meant to be, or if I killed it by doing things wrong here.

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