Monday 13 November 2023

Deciding What To Write - The Creative Process


I talked last week about when to write (piece found here) and I thought I would finish out this mini series by talking about how to decide what to write. I know a lot of people will be in the midst of NaNoWriMo, and some of them will have prepared and planned and prepped, or some, like me, will be plansting or pantsing their way through their draft. All of those are valid ways to do it, but sometimes you might find yourself stuck with which idea to choose, or where to take your story, and that's where this pieces comes in.

I've always been a writer who can, generally, think their way out of a plot issue. I've experienced writer's block before, but I don't get it often, and when I do the reason is usually unrelated to the story itself and more down to burnout and the like. But that said, there are some times when people just get caught up in the story and write themselves into corners, or when they have a whole bunch of ideas but don't know which one to choose, so here are some of my tips for both of these.

This applies more to plot issues than trying to think up a brand new idea, but it can be adapted for like thinking of where to take a sequel for example. One thing I do when I feel like I don't know which direction to take the story is really think about the narrative so far. Like in Cramping Chronicles, I knew I was building to something big, but I really had to think about all that had come before it before I could pin down exactly which direction to take things. I still have moments of doubt about that, but I'm getting better at working out what's imposter syndrome and what's actually just my gut saying that this plot point won't work.

Thinking back over the story, and questioning character motivation and character backstory and actually diving into whether or not your character would do this or that, can really help you solve that plot beat and allow you to work through the problem. The only issue with this step is if you don't know your character well enough yet, and in that case you will just have to go with what you think the right path should be, knowing that you may well have to double back at some point, but that is literally what revision is for.


This applies to new ideas and to plot issues. If in doubt, go for the path that excites you, take yourself, and your characters on that journey, and know that you will find your way through that excitement. There have been numerous times when I've found myself struggling with a plot, or struggling to narrow down which story I want to write next, and it's always been a good idea to either choose the story that fills me with ideas and passion, or to go down the plot path that I really think will lead to good things.

Now if you don't know which one, or you have multiples, then that can be another issue entirely. For the latter, multiple options that all excite you, then I suggest going back to the first one, and explore what all those ideas will mean for the story as a whole and bring in what you think your character would actually do. It's a lot of exploring and trying things out, but it really does end up bringing in the best results.

Now I know there's this idea that writer's talk to themselves, and while it can be true, for this step I mean with a trusted friend. It needs to be someone who either knows the story as a whole, or someone who's opinion you trust. For this I will go to either of my two best friends, and just talk through the ideas, the problems, the characters and work it through that way.

You've heard of coders and developers using rubber ducks to solve issues? The same can apply to writers. Sometimes talking it through aloud allows you to explore different avenues that you wouldn't have thought of keeping it all in your head. For that reason, this one is a great one, and maybe you solve the problem with no input for the listener, but sometimes you do need their help to work things out.

So there we go, those are my three tips for working out what to write, whether that be a new idea, or a plot issue in your current works. I've found all three to be really useful and I hope they are for you too!

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments!

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