Saturday, 4 September 2010

Story Writing Process

The process of story writing isn’t easy. Not only do you have to contend with what to write, but you have to know a little about how to write for it to work. It’s an art form, a way of expression, but it’s also a discipline. You can write for love of writing, the simple enjoyment of words on paper, or you can become a master storyteller.


Writing encompasses many processes, not just actual writing. It’s about imagination, thought, a keen eye for observation, planning, structure and shape, form and genre, writing strategies, research, knowing your audience, knowing the market and, rather importantly, recognising one’s limitations.

People often wrongly assume writing is easy. It’s not.

Writing a great piece of work doesn’t happen at the click of your fingers. Being a good writer takes years of hard work and discipline. It’s a constant learning process, the kind of art form that allows you to grow and flourish the more you write.

Writing needs a concise and clear direction and a well-structured approach. Essentially, this means engaging those elements of imagination, thought, observation, planning etc, to produce a well crafted, finely edited piece of work. Any story you write needs cohesion and wholeness, something that evolves logically. If it doesn’t, it will show in your writing and will result in a story that is forced and convoluted.

One other thing the writing process asks of us is the confidence to start and finish a novel/short story. Without it, your stories will never get finished.

Elements of the writing process:

• Ideas & imagination
• Observation
• Working Method
• Planning & Structure
• Writing strategies
• Research
• Editing
• Self discipline
• Confidence
• Know Your Limitations

Let’s take a closer look at these:

Ideas & Imagination

The basic ingredient to any story, the idea (not the plot) forms the general theme of who, what, when and where. It’s about forming that idea into something substantial and worth reading about. The imagination is the essence that turns and idea into something tangible at the end. Don’t be a writer if you don’t possess a lively imagination to turn ideas into fully-fledged stories.


Observation

Detailed observation of people can help you develop your characters, and sometimes the best place to do this can be caf├ęs and coffee shops. To write creatively you need to have an insatiable curiosity about what makes people tick. All writers are students of human nature, and are therefore constantly striving to explain the world to their readers.

Working method

The way you approach your writing is just as important as how you write. There is no right or wrong way because every writer is different. You may like to write a couple of hours a day or you prefer to work at night when it’s quiet. You might love the bustle of a coffee shop, or the silence, or you might work better with Guns ‘n’ Roses in blasting the background. Each writer has his or her particular approach, but it’s about making time and sticking to your writing.

Planning & Structure

Knowing what you want to write about is fine, but you may want to organise your thoughts, scribbles and notes into something cohesive. Planning is helpful because you can plot your story or novel with main points. Again, there is no right or wrong in this approach. Some writers hardly plan at all but simply write and see where it leads them. Others plan meticulously. What you want in each chapter, how you want to organise your characters, sub plots, minor characters and so on. Some writers find it useful to draw line maps or bubble maps. Use whatever approach feels best for you.


Writing Strategies

By using a flow chart similar to the one shown below, you should be able to produce crisp, polished work, which demonstrates creativity, perception, and originality. You will need to formulate a way of pushing together all your ideas and research. This means thinking carefully about your characters and your plot, how the story unfolds and develops – from planning and visualising, to creatively writing it down. Decide the intended impact of the story and be sure to include key events that will lead to a satisfactory ending. Always try to visualise your story whilst writing.

Simple writing strategy flowchart:



Use the best strategy for you.


Research

There should be some degree of accuracy within your writing, and research is vitally important to make your story real. You don’t always know what it is you have to research when you start writing. You may find you have to write a scene about Bulgarian Police, or you have a scene set on a mountainside...in which case you can do the research later and add the accurate information when you edit.


Editing

The process of stripping away the waffle, the blatant errors and plot flaws etc is one of the most important processes in story writing. This is about fine-tuning your story/novel, and perhaps the most significant part of the writing process because it allows you to see your completed work from start to finish and also shows you where you can improve it.

Ideally you should strip away 15- 20% of the superfluous writing. You might end up throwing away entire chapters, but then you’ll add some better words, sentences, paragraphs or scenes. Your end result will be tighter and better.


Self-discipline

How or where isn’t as important as how committed you are to writing, and how much you want to be published. A disciplined writer makes the time to write, even if it’s only a hundred words, or a snatched half hour between feeding the kids, the spouse, the cat and a hundred household chores. By all means balance writing time with leisure and family, but don’t neglect your talent.


Confidence

You should have the confidence to start a novel or short story, build on it and finish it. Many people start a novel but never finish it simply because they lack the confidence in their own writing. The more you write, the greater your confidence.

Experiment with your writing, and therefore challenge conventions of writing. Aim to be different – do something new. Stand out.

Knowing your Limitations

Another part of the story-writing process is to know your limitations. You may be one of those rare writers who are able to write multi-genre stories, or you might only be able to contend with one or genres at most.

If you know you can’t write romance, don’t try it. The result will be terrible. Conversely, if you’re niche is romance, don’t try to write horror otherwise the same result will occur. Stick to what you write best and become familiar with how you write best. Every writer has limitations, so get to know and respect yours.

Next time:  Creating the right prose.

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