View Full Version : Developing Story Ideas: Techniques?

Dale Emery
05-08-2008, 04:16 AM
What techniques do you use to develop an idea into a story? What do you do to advance an idea from "this could be a story" to "now I'm ready to write"? And how do you decide that you're ready to write?

I've started a separate thread about fostering intuition (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=102009). In this "techniques" thread I'd like to focus on the more direct techniques you use to develop a story idea.

The reason I ask is that I have lots of ideas, and am not yet good at developing them into stories. So far, "just write it" hasn't worked well for me, so I suspect (perhaps mistakenly) that I'm starting to write before my ideas are ripe. Perhaps at some other time I'll ask about ways to get myself out of the corners I write myself into, but for now I'd like to focus on what you do to bring your idea to the point where you're ready to start writing.


Danger Jane
05-08-2008, 04:47 AM
I have to spend an awful lot of time thinking on it. Sometimes also I need a false start of a few thousand words, which I then sleep on again for a few months minimum, while I write something else. After that extremely long time, I'm ready to start writing.

I'm not a big outliner, but I do let things incubate for a long time. Otherwise, they end up about 500 words long by the time resolution comes, and then...um...now what?

Linda Adams
05-08-2008, 04:53 AM
I'll be interested to see the responses on this. I've always struggled with getting from the idea to story stage. My last project started with the idea of a chase scene in an ice storm and went through many, many revisions to figure out what the story was actually about. I've been trying to find ways to make it easier and less time consuming.

What techniques do you use to develop an idea into a story?

Pretty much, I think I throw it at the wall to see what sticks. I have tried a variety of preplanning ideas to work out the story from the idea, but it seems like the only way for me to turn it from an idea into a story is to write it.

What do you do to advance an idea from "this could be a story" to "now I'm ready to write"?

For my WIP (in second draft), I did define the hook first thing. Not the story or plot, but what makes this book different from all the others. I did try various forms of outlining to try to figure out what the story is and finally wrote a first draft in about 30 days just to get something done. I was more than halfway through before I finally started to figure out the the story and who the bad guy was.

And how do you decide that you're ready to write?

When I have a general idea of the major events that occur in the story. I was actually planning to do a first draft of a second novel after I finished the first one, but I realized I didn't have any major events to work with. Now I'm doing a bit of research into the subject and seeing what I come up with.

05-08-2008, 05:02 AM
I have the same problem, so I've developed into a compulsive outliner and note-keeper. Sometimes I'll start with a list of characters, a specific event, or a setting and brainstorm possibilities until I come up with something that resembles a story. Here's an example of what my notes look like: http://bonnyread.deviantart.com/art/NOTES-Pastiche-and-a-G-String-59030060

I tend to get lost in my writing, and these kinds of notes help me avoid getting caught up in the language and the details before I've nailed down the characters and plot.

05-08-2008, 05:03 AM
What techniques do you use to develop an idea into a story?

No techniques. Everything comes together organically. An idea comes and I file it away and let it marinate until...

What do you do to advance an idea from "this could be a story" to "now I'm ready to write"?

...all these other little things I've noticed click together and make a big blob of story-stuff. I then have to go in and pick apart what's important and what isn't, and also find some semblance of plot. I like to have a few key scenes in the back of my head before I start writing. The peripheral ideas -- little things, like maybe vague themes or something -- come into play later.

I don't outline or anything. Like the ideas, the plot comes together organically.

And how do you decide that you're ready to write?

Usually what happens is a sentence or two will pop into my head, followed by scenes. So I write them down. From then on it's just a matter of forcing myself to write regularly.

05-08-2008, 05:23 AM
What techniques do you use to develop an idea into a story?

It's mostly good old brainstorming. My novel ideas tend to come from taking something I've seen or read, and going "well, what if?" I have dozens of ideas in various stages. Many will just be ideas. It's the idea that really grabs my attention that ends up in the "potential novel" category.

If my idea comes in the form of a character, I try to figure out the concept. If my idea comes in the form of a concept, next step is figuring out the characters. I get out a notebook and start scribbling. There's something free about still using paper and a pen when I brainstorm. Crossing out bad ideas, connecting new ones with little arrows, adding notes into the margins.

Once I've got a few characters and a concept, I start thinking about the story. Where should it start? What's the inciting incident in the plot? Whose POV is this from? All of that is part of my brainstorming session, before I even open up a Word document. I always have a strong idea of my first chapter before I begin.

What do you do to advance an idea from "this could be a story" to "now I'm ready to write"?

I'm ready to write when I have a first chapter in mind, and characters to play with. Even then, though, the story may not be ready for me. I have half a dozen started and stalled novels, because I started writing before the idea was ready. It sounds a little hokey, I guess, but it's like sticking bread in the oven before the yeast has fully risen. You get a bad loaf.

And how do you decide that you're ready to write?

See above. :)

When the characters are banging around in my head, telling me what the first chapter is, and that they're ready to begin their adventure, it's time. And during the course of writing the novel, I've always got a notebook out, ready for more brainstorming.

Just last week, one hour with a notebook and pen, and nothing else around me, helped break through a plot problem with the WIP.

05-08-2008, 07:21 AM
Writing is easy. Story telling is harder. There are a lot of books published where the writer is very marginal, but which have gripping fun stories. The story is the most important part of the book. I'm not talking about whether the story is plot driven or character driven because they both are still stories. The fact is that some Ideas can't sustain a story of any length. If you have an idea, test it first as a short story.

I also have written chapter "tests" is is sort of like a paint swatch. If you are going to spend a year or more on a book you have to know it is going to work. (Short stories are great fun, but there is not much of a market for them).

So, I think you have to deal with the R&D side of the writing scene. This is a project, and you are a project designer. How good an R&D person you are, how well you can develop your project really shows in the end.

How to R&D? Well, they don't teach it at college.

Chasing the Horizon
05-08-2008, 07:36 AM
I almost always start with characters, rather than a concept or plot (don't ask where the characters come from; another dimension, maybe). Then I put the characters in all sorts of crazy situations (and not-so-crazy situations, when I feel like being nice) and see how they react. I'll do this for weeks (or even months, with my first novel, at least), all just playing out scenes in my head. Eventually I'll reach a point where I feel like I know the characters well enough to create a story for them and write it.

I usually base my plots around the most interesting 'test scenes' that I played out in my head; what situations the characters reacted most strongly to. I usually have three or four of these test scenes, and basically play 'connect the dots' between them and try to make that connecting line into something coherent with a beginning and an end. I write all this down in the form of a detailed scene-by-scene outline (when I'm writing my entire focus is on the characters, and without this scene outline I'll wander off in random directions for no reason and lose all track of the actual story).

Once the outline's finished, I'm pretty much ready to start writing.

I come up with all the characters and usually most of the plots on my own, though I do ask my parents for ideas when I get stuck on a scene or sequence (either during outlining or when I'm writing and decide the exact event I outlined won't work for some reason). Both my mom and my dad have totally different ways of thinking than I do (and totally different from each other too) and they can usually think of something interesting for me to have happen in the sticky scene.

05-08-2008, 09:17 AM
What techniques do you use to develop an idea into a story?

Personally? Let's take my latest WIP for an example. It all started when I saw a strange black dog while walking through a rather deserted forest. My mind latched onto the dog, as it looked rather unusual and for the rest of my holiday the idea fermented. Soon I had a very distinct image of the dog with a young boy at its side.
When I got home, I drew a couple of sketches and began noting down ideas. The ideas of how to flesh out the story come spasmodically, sometimes while I'm walking - sleeping - anything.
Once I had a basic equation (Boy+Dog in winter forest in England +Normal Children = Magic) I began to write. This WIP is probably not the best example as I didn't do any outline (I am an outline-er) and got horribly stuck halfway through and had to go backwards to write my way out of the mess. However, slowly the idea developed and - as I finally outlined it - I fleshed out the characters, added conflict, a climax, denouement, and ending.
The final story is very very different from the original idea.

What do you do to advance an idea from "this could be a story" to "now I'm ready to write"?

Um - as I work from outlines, I start writing after the outline is complete to my satisfaction. The outline just forms itself out of the nothingness that lives in my brain, by the way, I have no idea where it comes from.

And how do you decide that you're ready to write?

When it feels like I've fixed all my most obvious plot holes, character defects, and gaping problems in the outline. When it feels right enough.


05-08-2008, 10:33 AM
Thanks very much for sharing your notes, Bonny. I bookmarked the page.

I can't start writing until my stance is clear. Am I ambivalent, amused, chagrined, miffed, what? The voice thing, that's my personal hook. When I get it right, then I can start notes or a draft. If I start before I'm ready, that wrong voice might spoil it for good.

kct webber
05-08-2008, 03:33 PM
I don't outline. I've never been able to stick to one. But it's something you could try.

Something I do is just brainstorm, ask "what if" and every story I have has its own notebook--at least one. I buy them from a bulk office supplier. :) I jot down ideas as they come. There is no particular order; they are just scribbled ideas. Eventually they start coming together into something. I take these notes as I'm writing the story. I'll have a plot point that I suddenly realize that I'm going to have to cover later, so I jot it down. It really prevents writing yourself into a corner and it ensures that the ideas that are being spawned by the writing itself get covered.

I don't write in a straight line, either. If I have an idea that is just super vivid and my head won't let it go, I'll write it even if it won't happen for 20 chapters. So I'm not sure if it's a method, so much as an evolution. I "just write" but it's not quite as simple as that. This is the method that has evolved to make "just writing" work for me.

When do I know I'm ready to write? When an image or a character pops into my head and I ask "what if..." That's it. That's when I start writing. The image of blood dripping into a cup of tea popped into my head one day. I started writing and a half an hour later, there was a short story sitting in front of me. The blood in the tea was a very vivid image and I asked, "why is that there?" And bang... Story.

05-08-2008, 03:42 PM
Oh man, I wish I knew. Then maybe I wouldn't struggle so much at times to get an idea turned into a story.

The last short story I wrote (working on a novel now) started off while brainstorming with my husband on a long car trip--a story about a city on the back of a huge animal (although he disliked the idea of using the turtle-like creature I eventually went for for reasons I don't remember anymore)(something about him thinking I should just make up a name for the creature). A bit more brainstorming led to thinking what it would be like in such a city. How would the people survive, eat, drink, trade, etc? What would society be like? And then I brainstormed on a specific individual and what might be causing him conflict. I ended up deciding that there was a guy trying to save his wife because there was a plague in the city and no water left in the poor districts and wealthy people were dumping poorer houses off the turtle's shell at an alarming rate in the middle of the night and what nobody knew was that the turtle was also heading for the edge of the world and almost there (as evidenced by the salt-crust waste they were in which was the remains of an ocean the edge of the world had caught up with).

Yeah, those of you who critted this one already recognize some elements but know the story is not what I thought it would be above.

Long story short, I tried to write the above story, but it kept getting stuck. I couldn't find the voice of the main character, and it was killing me. Everything felt wrong deep in my bones. So I looked at something else for a week thinking this story would be abandoned. And one morning I woke up and boom. It hit me. My opening scene. Which also happened to involved a completely different character and slightly different setting and conflict (no plagues, no sick people, no class warfare). The voice wrote the story in that one, led me through to the end. I knew the entire time the city was still advancing to the edge of the world, but now I knew why it was doing so and I wove tidbits into the narrative, especially important as the MC was a storyteller.

So, it was completely organic and highly annoying in some ways. I had a lot of false starts on that one. And I still have an evil directory on my computer full of other false starts that in theory have a story behind them, but deep in my bones, I know it's not the right story. Not yet. And I hate that.



05-08-2008, 05:33 PM
I keep a story idea notebook and scribble down ideas in it all the time. I name the ideas, so that further thoughts on that idea can be readily identified pages later. Every once in a while, I go through the notebook and transfer all the bits on a particular idea to its own Word document.

When the Word document gets a certain critical mass of idea bits in it, I'll read through them and start free-writing, playing with the bits, fitting them together in various ways, cross-fertilizing them with idea bits from other documents. At this point, I'll also start doing research to find out things I'll need to know to write the story. The research invariably donates more idea bits, often exactly the ones needed to make the whole mess coalesce.

Eventually the accumulation of idea-bits and the web of free-writing and research linking them will lead to workable characters and plot, which I clean up into a more formal outline. Then I'm ready to write a first draft, always keeping my mind open to new directions and idea bits.

Short stories can "ferment" to completeness in a couple weeks or a couple months, once I decide to concentrate on a particular one. Novels-to-be take a lot longer to mature -- luckily I have a half-dozen that have been in the oak casks for years already, with more in the grape-crushing stage. ;)

05-08-2008, 06:24 PM
Thanks for starting this thread, Dale! Reading people's ideas has been really helpful for me.

In my previous life as a writer, I always did the sit-down-and-write thing. It was mostly for class, so I'd write a story or a poem in one or two sittings and be done with it until the revision stage, and that worked really well for me.

After a lengthy break, I'm writing on my own now and finding that I'm having similar issues as your own. I have several ideas at once, but I don't necessarily feel ready to write them yet. I was doing some research online about writing techniques and found this: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php

I haven't tried the technique, but it looks intriguing to me. I haven't read the guy's books either, so I can't say how good or bad he is as a writer or a teacher. :tongue Anyway, I thought it might be worth a look for you.

05-08-2008, 06:36 PM
I use writing exercises. I take the Gotham Writers' Workshop book and Ursula LeGuin's Steering the Craft, and I work through most of the exercises in both books. It is a kind of odd, non-linear approach, but at the end of it, I have a pretty good idea of things like POV characters, main conflicts, voice, style, etc and I can begin writing without knowing *exactly* what path I am going to take to get to the end.

05-08-2008, 08:55 PM
My first step is usually to create a setting that is itself a major "character." Any good idea I have would typically require a certain setting, so I just figure out what that would need to be. It's fairly organic.

Then, what effect would that setting have on those who inhabit it?

What kind of conflict would spring from such a mix of personalities?

What changes to this status quo would increase the tension?

What kind of additional personalities could then make that conflict explode?

How do I get everyone into the same place without my logic lapsing in some way?

By the time I figure these things out, I'm usually pretty excited to get started. But there's a lot more development that happens throughout.

05-08-2008, 09:03 PM
When I get a story idea, which typically comes with at least one character, I write. I start writing the first scene that comes to me, and that creates the impetus for where the story should go next. Sometimes a whole novel plot can form after I write a first scene.

05-08-2008, 10:22 PM
What techniques do you use to develop an idea into a story? What do you do to advance an idea from "this could be a story" to "now I'm ready to write"? And how do you decide that you're ready to write?

I sit my butt in the chair and start writing. I know of no other way.

05-09-2008, 12:48 AM
There's a book I read (don't own, but probably should) called, I think, "Writing the Breakout Novel" which is written by a literary agent.

One phrase they used has always stuck in my mind... raise the stakes. In other words, if your character has to beat the bad guys, what is the compelling reason he must do so? What does he stand to lose if he doesn't? His child will die? The earth's population will succumb to the virus? LOL, not current plot ideas of mine. But he says in the book that this is one of most obvious deficiencies in the work of us novices. There isn't a compelling motive for carrying the reader through the story.

Anyway, back to the topic, I've started finding that there is something really useful about that simple phrase raise the stakes. In other words, at the point I have a vaguely interesting story idea, rather than thinking generally.. how do I make this more interesting, it is specifically asking myself how I make the motives of characters more compelling that leads me to more interesting ideas. Just helps me personally, and maybe could be of use.

05-09-2008, 01:42 AM
One phrase they used has always stuck in my mind... raise the stakes. In other words, if your character has to beat the bad guys, what is the compelling reason he must do so?

I've done this for quite a while but I never really understood the character/stakes synergy until recently, really. Character flaws play a role in the stakes, as well as the character flaws of that other character "the bad guy" who has competing though often unseen goals (until he/she/it strikes). I think of the whole goal setting thing as a struggle between diametrically opposed outcomes with "fate/chance/ events" intervening, driven by either the other actors, or by sub-plots. Some of these 1000 page mega-novels have to have so many sub plots that keeping them in line is a massive responsibility.

05-09-2008, 03:31 AM
Lots of different things leads me on to writing a new story idea. The last big idea I had, around 6 weeks ago, was me going to rewrite the main plot of a story of mine that fell into the wrong hands. I started rewriting the story, but then decided to turn it into something totally different, and with a whole new bunch of characters. I have practically finished the first draft; that's the quickest novel I've ever written!

I usually get ideas from scenes in films, pieces of music, someone saying something, and most of the time, just ideas popping into my head from nowhere.
I think about my ideas for a few hours, sometimes days, and then start writing them out. I quite often delete whole chapters after a story is well established, especially ones at the beginning.


05-09-2008, 03:35 AM
I usually get an idea or a scene.
If I get a scene, I write it down. And then a story grows out of that.
If I just get an idea, which comes to me as a sort of title, I think my head automatically creates a scene where that little idea is most apparent. Then I write it down.

05-09-2008, 05:13 AM
I have an idea for a plot, create my characters and off we go. Too many ideas and too little time to evolve them all into a novel

Soccer Mom
05-09-2008, 07:05 AM
I have my plot, & a pretty good idea of the meat of the story. Then, I outline. Yeah, I know that some don't do this. I've actually tried both. My first book had no outline. But, for my second I've realized that outlining scene by scene, chapter by chapter is very helpful to me. I feel more encouraged when I have an entire outlined project sitting before me. Then I just start writing. Of course as I'm writing the plot usually shifts somewhat. Knew ideas spark more subplots. I'll add these new ideas to my outline as I go along. Make everything work; click into place.

I love subplots; new & surprising twists. I think that writing the outline first gives me the freedom to impliment these as I go along. To me it's like having a painted picture. Now you get to go in & add all the finishing touches to it to make it really come alive.

Donnette Smith
Author of Lady Gabriella
www.freewebs.com/romanceauthor (http://www.freewebs.com/romanceauthor)
www.myspace.com/storycreater (http://www.myspace.com/storycreater)

I'm similar to this. I start with a rough outline of main ideas, usually just a paragraph and start hitting major events and placing them in the outline. I keep adding and fleshing out the outline until I'm satisfied. My outline ends up almost like a very barebones first draft. Then I write.

05-09-2008, 09:13 PM
I have no idea where my ideas come from. For me, the ideas just seem to "pop" into my head. I'll see something (a hawk gliding on the wind, for example) and an idea will hit. I really can't explain it, it's just weird- even for me. All of a sudden my mind has this little movie playing and I'm inside my future main character's mind, seeing things from their perspective. I know, I know, I'm a little insane...ok let's keep it real here...ALOT insane, but I deal. Honestly, I don't think that I could write any other way.

05-09-2008, 11:36 PM
Once I've let the idea stew on its own for a little while, and I've mentally explored what I think is cool about it (independent of whether it could turn into a good story), I step back and ask myself what sort of story-piece is it? Is it a setting or a conflict or a great beginning or character, etc, so forth.

It's kind of like... let's say you picked something really awesome at the farmer's market and you wanted to cook a great meal with it. You need to ask yourself, is it the protein (like a great cut of organic beef), or maybe a condiment, a cheese, a fancy spice, etc. To build a great, well rounded meal around that cut of beef, you're going to need to add the right vegetables and the right spices and the right cooking technique, and a wine that compliments it. The process is completely different if you start with, say, a quart of fresh blueberries or goat cheese.

The story is the full three course meal, but your meal prep might go a lot faster (and be more balanced and enjoyable) if you understand from the start that you're building a meal around a protein. You have a better idea what you're missing, what cooking techniques might best suit it, what flavors go best with it, what staples/genre tropes you might want to pull from your pantry. If you have steak, you don't probably don't need a can of tuna, but some rice might help.

So if your initial idea is, say, the image of a woman walking out of jail after a ten year sentence, no one's there to pick her up, and it starts raining, you seem to have a protagonist and an opening and an initial goal and some potential themes suggested by the setting/protagonist (maybe redemption or revenge). And by naming those story-components you do have, you get a better idea of what you're missing (say, an antagonist, a story goal, a setting, what genre you're working in, plot.)

Since the organic strip steak of this meal, the anchoring idea of this story is that recently paroled woman standing in the rain, you can start selecting your missing components based on what best compliments that core idea. What obstacles best challenge this heroine and her flaws (or conversely, what flaws could you give this heroine to make the obstacles you came up with even more disastrous). What conflicts are suggested by her felon status? What motivation might best drive her toward your snazzy, flash-of-inspiration goal of "steal her ex-husband's dog in the middle of the night". And is the dog stealing going to be more of an inciting incident, or the ultimate goal she achieves after 300 pages of wacky hijinks?

There's nothing wrong with just letting it grow organically, obviously, but the more you understand about what slots are filled by what you have, the easier it might be to identify what it is you need to have a healthy, tasty, balanced story. If you come up with a great scene, you might ask yourself, is this an opening scene, a turning point in the middle, is it the climax? For some people, stepping back and looking at their story from this dry, structural, craft POV can zap the magic, so sometimes it's best to do this sort of analysis after you've run through your initial burst of "wouldn't it be cool if X?" Your mileage may, naturally, vary.

05-12-2008, 12:58 AM
I tend to do two things.

First, with the kernal of an idea in my head, I'll sit down and free write about it.

Almost every story idea I've ever had has been character-centric, rather than location/place-centric, so usually it amounts to 1-4 characters "sitting in an empty gray room" and I'll start typing about them...see what they have to say...about themselves, about each other, about the basic idea I have.

It leads me down lots of blind alleys, and I may wind up tossing most of it, but it is almost always enlightening, and....it's pretty easy to see if it's going somewhere...the more the characters have to say, the better "vibe" I get from the idea.

Then, I move on to phase two.

I'll sit down with my wife Christina, and go over the basic idea with her.

The BS meter is very important to me.

If I can "sell" my wife on the idea without causing her BS meter to go off, then we might have something worth developing.

Sadly, some of my more cherished concepts have died an early death in this manner

**Re-creation of a conversation**

"But honey! What do you MEAN you don't love the idea?!"

(wife shakes head) "It's about a guy who's a bouncer, right?"

(Vel nods emphatically)

"And this bouncer gets into a barrroom brawl."

"Uh huh!"

"Gets his head slammed into a steel post and his brain is damaged, gets a metal plate put in, yada yada yada...."

(more enthusiastic nods from Vel)

"Then...he discovers that if he TAKES a blow to the head...his metal plate...it...sets up some....harmonicsomethingorother that gives him the temporary ability to see the future, but..."

"Also kills him a piece at a time! The price for his "power.""

"Uh huh." (wife looks pained and shakes head). "Worst. Hero. Ever."

Crestfallen Vel goes back to the drawing board.


'bout like that. ;)


05-12-2008, 04:11 AM
Ugh. I struggle with this as well.

I started with the characters. I went back to my acting classes (that's from my first career attempt...) and dug out notes on creating a character. Then I just went through my main characters and built them - what do they like, don't like, music, books, what clothes they wear, what they like and don't like about themselves or other people, bad habits, pet peeves.

After awhile, I know them - probably because I've carved little bits out of real life people and papier mached them together into these characters. Then and only then will I know how they fit in with each other, interact, fight, conspire, etc.

The plot is just an idea - the situation of the sitcom - but it's the characters that make it go.

05-12-2008, 05:06 AM
I tend to let an idea percolate in my head until it's ready to emerge fully-formed. Bad ones tend to self destruct in there; I think the good ones eat them to survive.

05-12-2008, 04:00 PM
Stephen King once wrote in the preface to one of his short story collections that all of his stories started with the question, "Wouldn't it be funny if...?"

That's essentially how it goes with me, too. I'll be reading something, or watching a movie, or even just staring off into space, and I'll get a tickle of an idea. "Wouldn't it be funny if...you saw the Cinderella story from the footman's point of view?" That's where the idea for "Slipper" came from. I let it percolate in my head for awhile as I worked on other things, but my brain kept coming back to it -- poking the idea here and there to see if it had legs, peeling back the wrapping paper to see exactly who my MC was going to be, and figuring out the ending.

I knew I wanted the story to be a reflection on aging and regret -- so I needed to set -my- story some thirty or fourty years after the conclusion of the fairy tale. I sat down and wrote the opening, but by the time I got to the first interaction between the Queen and my MC, I knew I wanted my MC to be much more important to the family than a footman would have been. So I rewrote the opening to make my MC a priest -- the priest who married "Cinderella" and her Prince. It all fell into place from there.

I usually get the overall situation first, then the MC, then the ending. The in-between stuff evolves as I write, but the three pillars of the story don't change.

05-15-2008, 01:04 AM
"So far, 'just write it' hasn't worked well for me, so I suspect (perhaps mistakenly) that I'm starting to write before my ideas are ripe."

This here sums up my own process. I can't just sit down and set out to write a story. It has to just...grow in my head, first. I can't really start writing it unless the entire thing is already somewhere in me, even if I'm not sure how exactly I'm going to get it all down. Case in point, the story I'm writing now--I have honestly no clue how the climax is going to go, but some part of me knows how it's going to end, so I can write it; whereas with other, smaller ideas, I can't work with them. Yet. They'll have to sit around and grow up into seedlings that are big enough to transplant outside, or else just wither up and die.

I imagine this method isn't very useful for people who want to make a living from writing! (One of which I'm not.)

Storm Dream
05-15-2008, 10:07 AM
"Just write it" worked exactly once, in my most recent WIP. It consisted of two ideas I'd had percolating for years, and abruptly I smashed them together and ZOMG, plot!

But that's the only time. For me, "just write it" helps me get the ideas on paper, but it's usually followed by endless rewrites and tweaking.

What I will usually do is a little bit of worldbuilding (where it takes place, major characters, possible conflicts) and then go from there. I'm awful at starting from the beginning; I like to write a few "test scenes" that help me get started. Sometimes the test scenes get tossed, sometimes they become the backbone of the book...!