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Old 07-10-2019, 01:35 PM
Machine Elf is offline
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Explain the creative writing process for long/complicated works


In a thread somewhere on this board that I can't find right now, someone posted a link to Digger. I clicked it, and fell down the rabbit- wombat-hole for several days. It turned out to be a long, interesting, complex work with numerous characters and groups, each with its own personality, backstory, culture, sensibilities, strengths, and frailties. Seemingly innocuous elements that were introduced early in the plotline reappeared later on and had important roles in the story.

I did some creative writing once. Back in elementary school. A fair analogy of my work would be fingerpainting, as compared to the works of a Renaissance master. And that's about as far as my creative writing ability ever developed.

And so I come to the vast and varied membership of the Dope, looking for enlightenment. How does the creative writing process work when you're crafting a story like Digger, or something like Lord of the Rings? If I'm going to build a house, I start with a detailed design, expressed through architectural drawings that tell me where every 2x4, pipe fitting, and electrical outlet will go; only when the design is "frozen" do I then go forth and start making the house, armed with foreknowledge of exactly how it's all going to go together. Is it like that when you're writing? Do you flesh out the characters - personality, culture, motives, etc. - and then design a story in which they will interact in interesting/entertaining ways? Or is it more like improv that gets refined and revised over time until it starts to shape up into an interesting storyline?
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Old 07-10-2019, 01:53 PM
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It all depends on the writer; everyone has their own method.

Generally, there are two categories. A plotter plans out the entire plot before starting to write. A pantser just writes the first draft.

I'm a pantser. I start with an idea, introduce a main character, and see what logically can happen next. When everything is written, I edit it to create further depth. Characters I created just for the hell of it end up having major roles and backstories; potential subplots are sharpened or introduced.

For example, in my current novel, one of the MCs showed up in chapter six. I realized he was more interesting than my original MC and will be rewriting to focus on him. I'll pull things out of the blue, then in the edit set up how they work so they're not a deus ex machina. I tend to be good at creating characters; I introduced one to be in one scene and realized she was worth more than just a walk-on.

Now, a planner will do as you described: plan out the plot, the characters, the major events, the story arc, the beats, etc. Then they write according to outline.

And there are people in between: planners who suddenly get a good idea in the middle of writing the story from their outline and go with that (some outline at that point).

So, as Kipling said, "There are nine and sixty ways/Of constructing tribal lays/And every single one of them is right."
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Last edited by RealityChuck; 07-10-2019 at 01:55 PM.
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:22 PM
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In the case of Lord of the Rings, Tolkien tended to start writing, get so far, and then go back to the beginning and start all over again...and again...and again. So any bits of world-building that got invented part-way through, would be fleshed out and made part of the seamless whole the next time he wrote it.

Last edited by MacSpon; 07-10-2019 at 06:22 PM.
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machine Elf View Post
In a thread somewhere on this board that I can't find right now, someone posted a link to Digger.[/url] I clicked it, and fell down the rabbit- wombat-hole for several days.
Me, I think; though I don't remember the thread either. I just remember somebody saying they liked the word "wombat", and I couldn't resist.
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:37 AM
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Me, I think; though I don't remember the thread either. I just remember somebody saying they liked the word "wombat", and I couldn't resist.
Ah, there it is.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:40 AM
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A first draft is not going to look too much like a final draft. What it does do is help you lay out certain ideas, characters, moments, sequences, etc, where you think they fit, or as they occur to you, and you shouldn't edit as you go. By the end of that initial draft you may have introduced a character halfway through, a situation of particular importance, or a climactic moment, that each require an earlier introduction and to be woven through to have them all make more sense and seem more natural. So the second draft is where you do that.

Subsequent drafts let you do that even more, though for a novel that might be too much work for most authors, (third drafts really ought to have most of it figured out well enough to send to an editor or test readers) and each draft really might be used for other things like checking factual errors, spelling, and moving chapters around.

Anyway, that's one method how you can set things up early that might have relevance later.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:57 AM
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As a fantasy and sci-fi writer, I usually start with the world-building. I might have a kernel of a story, but before I can flesh it out, I need to figure out in what kind of world this is happening. After the world-building, which generally goes into far more detail than needed for the story, I start crafting characters and planning the story.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MacSpon View Post
In the case of Lord of the Rings, Tolkien tended to start writing, get so far, and then go back to the beginning and start all over again...and again...and again. So any bits of world-building that got invented part-way through, would be fleshed out and made part of the seamless whole the next time he wrote it.
Tolkien himself said that when he finally got to the end, he had to go back through and do a lot of re-writing to fix the inconsistencies and put in things necessary for understanding. So it's not as if he just kept re-writing from the beginning every time.


Every writer is different. Some like to plan things out in meticulous detail and write detailed outlines, while others just plunge in and fix stuff later. Sometimes they don't even bother with the "go back later and fix things" -- that's why so many of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories are filled with inconsistencies and continuity errors (which just give the True Believers more things to fool around with in their articles for the Baker Street Journal).

Speaking for myself, I usually know where I'm going, and drop in hints and exposition as I go, rather than going back and fixing it. But I wrote my mystery "Murder with Trimalchio" without any idea of how I was going to solve it -- I wanted to concentrate on the characters. But it all worked out, fortunately.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:57 AM
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Asimov once said that he was baffled by hearing another writer talk about all the planning and plotting and revising and editing and re-writing. His own method was, Step 1: Write first draft. Step 2: Send it in to the publisher.

Of course, not everyone is Asimov.
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