Monday 25 March 2024

Discovering Your Story - The Creative Process


I have drafted almost 50 books, and in that time I've stuck to a very similar process of planning, drafting and all of that. I've found sometimes that I have a clear idea of what the story is, and then at other times I've been kinda working on a sliver of an idea and it takes me a while to really flesh it out, either through planning more, or drafting. There have even, in the early years of my career, been stories that I've not really worked out until the revision and rewriting stage.

I tell you all that simply to give you some idea of where I'm coming from when I talk about discovering your story. I am, but no stretch of the word, a planner when it comes to writing itself, everything else in my life, sure, but I don't do extensive planning before I begin drafting, so if that's what you're after, then I am not the person for you because I'd feel wrong to give you advice when I, myself, have never used it. I stand more on the pantsing side, though I do do a very bare bones plan when I first start writing.

So what can I tell you? I can tell you how it works for me when I first start with the seed of an idea, and I can tell you how it sometimes works when I'm mid-draft and have finally discovered the big plot of it all. I don't go into ideas generally knowing the genre, unless I'm a lot more solid in my plans, which has happened before, but if I don't have that, it doesn't hold me back and I usually cement the genre later, during the revision and editing phase of my writing.

So how do I approach discovering that story? Here's some of my steps and if they help you, great, if they don't, then you at least know what not to do, which is still a win in my book!


This is where, I think, most people start. They have an idea, they know that they want to write it, but most writers won't just get the idea and instantly start writing. I know of some who do, but usually there's a brewing phase in there somewhere. For me I'll write down everything about the idea, and all the little bits and pieces that come along with it, and then slowly think it over, let it brew, and finally when I feel like I have a good handle on the characters, and the setting, and the vague plot, though sometimes it's a stronger plot than others, I move on to the next step.


When I say minimal plan, I really do mean Minimal. My plans are usually 2 A4 pages printed, and the second page only has about 5 lines on it. I will block out my chapters, and then take myself through the points I already know, leaving space in there for ideas to come to me during the drafting stage, and note done a word, maybe two or three about what I think should happen in that chapter. It's never more than a few words. It never takes up more than one line, and it doesn't always stay as written in stone, but it's there to guide me, and only when I know I have that as neat and tidy as I can, do I move onto the next step.


This is the step that will take me a long time. Anywhere from about 5-6 months to over a year. While it's been a long time since I've needed that long to finish a project, I like to have it out there because sometimes projects in drafting take a serious amount of time to get finished. Usually I will write a chapter a day, with some days off in there, and will keep going until I hit the end. Sometimes I won't hit the plot, and my story until the third, fourth, or fifth chapter and when that happens, I make a note for revisions because I realise that I probably need to cut those earlier chapters. That's more just how I work, knowing that it takes me a while to hit my stride, but you gotta do what works for you. It's only when I've got a complete draft that I move onto the next, the longest step of them all.


The first thing I do when I finish a draft is make sure I have it all printed out, and then I file it away. I do not look at it again until I've reached the stage where I need to start revising it. And that's when the serious hard work, for me at least, starts. I will go through as many drafts as it takes to get the story right and then go through it again and again to do minimal edits to the lines and such. Once it reaches the professional edit, I've probably spent a good 9 months to a year reading and rereading, sending out to betas, sensitivity readers and so on, and I usually, hopefully, by then have the story clear in my mind and I know exactly what it's about. It's a long process, but so very worth it.

So there we go, those are my ways that I discover my story. Every writer works differently, and that's completely normal. I do find that I've gotten better at doing things the longer I do them, but if you're just starting out, don't fret, you will get there.

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments!

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