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The Backward OX
01-17-2010, 08:31 AM
I Googled the same question and got 2.1 million hits.

So I'm curious. How do you decide?

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-17-2010, 10:07 AM
I don't decide. The muses decide for me.

LOG
01-17-2010, 11:27 AM
I don't decide. The muses decide for me.
What they said.

Libbie
01-17-2010, 11:48 AM
Several different factors go into it.

Like most people, I keep a notebook/file of ideas that interest me for potential future projects. I write a lot of historical fiction, so I need to plan research time into my writing process.

I only work on one project at a time to keep myself focused, but when I've finished a work I open up my notebook and flip through my ideas and read through them all, to see which ones interest me the most. Then I hit the library, book store, and internet to read up on the ideas I've chosen.

When I research a broad subject, I keep an eye out for potential stories. Interesting characters, mysterious unknown factors to this particular bit of history, etc. I just do a ton of reading and start to play with ideas for stories in my head as I continue to research.

Eventually, an actual story will start to gel. Then I begin outlining.

However, sometimes there are reasons to work on a particular idea right away instead of going back to my notebook. I'm querying a novel set in Egypt, and there aren't a lot of those on the market, though readers have been eagerly buying the few that are in print. So I'm working on another one, and drawing up outlines for a few more just in case my future agent wants to know what else I can come up with for this setting. So, sometimes I make certain projects a priority based on opportunities I believe may be coming.

My current WIP is a short story that will end up being about 6,000 words. I got the idea for this one from a totally random phrase that popped into my head, apparently out of nowhere: "John Muir f***s a robot." The idea was so funny and intriguing to me that I just had to play around with it some more. I decided to turn it into a respectable alternate-history/sci-fi story. It'll need a better title, though, when it's done.

Clair Dickson
01-17-2010, 05:59 PM
The voices in my head...

Truthfully, I gather ideas from all sorts of different places, playing them out in my head with a serious of what-if questions until one sticks.

Sometimes it's a character that will appeal to me while other times is a particular plot that I think will be fun to explore. I don't rush to write, but rather mull things over until I think I've got a solid start AND can move from those opening lines into the meat of the story. (This is more a lesson I've learned about myself as a writer. Too many stories that I didn't know what to do with once the Ah-ha! moment ran out.)

So, from the many ideas for stories, I widdle down to just one and start writing. I don't imediately toss other ideas, but consider if they can be part of the current story in some form or not. Sometimes they might go into the "Story Ideas" file, waiting for a short story perhaps or another time. Then, I write.

Being a writers takes more than just ideas. It takes discipline and follow-through. There are many ideas for stories out there-- which one are YOU best suited to be the teller of?

scarletpeaches
01-17-2010, 06:02 PM
The characters.

I can experience something that makes me wonder, "How could I turn this into a book? What characters would react best in this situation?" Not necessarily who would cope best, but what sort of person would generate the most interest in the reader?

Once I have the characters, they tell me what they'd do.

SPMiller
01-17-2010, 06:12 PM
Unlike several of the above posters, I decide what to write about based on whatever I feel like writing at the moment. Usually, a certain premise will occur to me, or I'll imagine a scene or two. I then build a story around whatever idea I come up with. There are no muses, no characters talking to me, and no voices in my head.

Mr Flibble
01-17-2010, 06:14 PM
Actually I don't always realise what I'm really writing about till I'm half way through the first draft....I have the premise and the story and whatnot, but then I'll get to 40k or so and realise by the way the story's going what's the real nub of it. Normally not what I thought was going to be.

ETA: to clarify - my current WIP I thought was just going to be a cool con caper romp, only it dawned on me the other day that what I was really writing about was trust, betrayal and forgiveness.

Jamesaritchie
01-17-2010, 09:09 PM
First I decide on genre. That's a must, or the book will come out an unpublishable mess.

Then I start fooling around with titles. When I find a title I like, one that strikes my fancy, I type it. Then I drop down a couple of spaces and just start writing a book based on that title.

Libbie
01-17-2010, 10:07 PM
I'm hoping the "fooling around with titles" thing will be another means of starting projects for me. I've been keeping a list of words and phrases that might make interesting titles in my notebook.

firedrake
01-17-2010, 10:10 PM
The characters.

I can experience something that makes me wonder, "How could I turn this into a book? What characters would react best in this situation?" Not necessarily who would cope best, but what sort of person would generate the most interest in the reader?

Once I have the characters, they tell me what they'd do.

Same here.
I mainly write historical fiction so once I have my characters, I think of a place and time to put them and the history dictates the plot to some degree.

kuwisdelu
01-17-2010, 10:23 PM
My brain does weird things.

Stuff happens.

Then it lets me know there's a story to be told, and I start writing.

Lady Ice
01-17-2010, 11:04 PM
Lightbulbs. Something just...clicks.

LuckyH
01-17-2010, 11:06 PM
I base my novels on actual events that I have some personal knowledge of, and then fictionalise them, hopefully beyond recognition. Before I start typing in earnest, a varying degree of preparation will have taken place.

My final, purely personal act of preparation is to make a list of the chapters and roughly what each will contain, itís the only way I know of staying on target. I donít mind overshooting, but if Iím ready to type The End after 79,000 words, Iím fucked.

I can easily knock off 20,000 words by editing, but Iím hopeless at padding.

LOG
01-17-2010, 11:50 PM
Once I have the characters, they tell me what they'd do.
I'm sending the nice men in white coats.

bclement412
01-17-2010, 11:58 PM
Lightbulbs. Something just...clicks.

Same here.

Linda Adams
01-18-2010, 03:16 AM
It's the story. Characters are easy to toss in later--I tend to use titles instead of names during this part (i.e., Aunt, MC, etc.). I start with a couple of ideas and play around with them for a while. I do various summaries for them, trying to get a feel for what direction a story might go.

Eventually one of the ideas starts to gel into a story, and that's what I go with.

kuwisdelu
01-18-2010, 03:48 AM
I'm sending the nice men in white coats.

You should probably send them for me, too.

I've never come up with a story idea on my own.

I just let the characters tell me what happens.

Mr Flibble
01-18-2010, 03:50 AM
I just let the characters tell me what happens.

My characters tell me what the story is really about. Once I stop trying to tell them what to do anyway.

Kateness
01-18-2010, 04:48 AM
For me, it's usually while I'm away from a computer. I tend to get ideas based on other pieces of media (I've blogged about it a couple of times). Commercials, tv shows, conversations, a song.

I usually don't write down things the instant they pop into my head. I let them stew away in the back of my mind. Once they're more than a sentence-fragment-long idea, they tend to get written down, and that's when I start doing proper research/thinking about it.

It honestly doesn't take much to spark some idea in my mind -- unless I'm *trying* to think of something; in which case, nothing ever comes.

The Lonely One
01-18-2010, 05:52 AM
I don't wait for anything as fanciful as muses, and blessings to those who are rich and fortunate enough to have such bountiful mentalities--but the things I label as "ideas" rarely make it past the "idea" stage into sentences, and even more rare that those sentences might become a decent story.

Usually I just start tooling around in my subconscious and a character steps forward. (That's usually, not always, but I'm most confident with this method.)

Shadow_Ferret
01-18-2010, 06:04 AM
Unlike several of the above posters, I decide what to write about based on whatever I feel like writing at the moment. Usually, a certain premise will occur to me, or I'll imagine a scene or two. I then build a story around whatever idea I come up with. There are no muses, no characters talking to me, and no voices in my head.

As much as I don't like agreeing with SP, I agree with SP. :D

I imagine a scene or two and write that, then just keep writing.

The Backward OX
01-18-2010, 06:09 AM
Anybody:

1. After you first get a basic idea for a story in your head, do you then go on to formulate the entire story in your head before a single word is written?

2. And how about hand-written first drafts? In other words, type nothing until itís almost ready to send out. For a variety of reasons - legibility and time amongst them - I personally would avoid hand-writing anything, if at all possible. Whatís your thinking there?

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-18-2010, 06:15 AM
I don't wait for anything as fanciful as muses, and blessings to those who are rich and fortunate enough to have such bountiful mentalities--but the things I label as "ideas" rarely make it past the "idea" stage into sentences, and even more rare that those sentences might become a decent story.

I wish I DID have to wait - I get flooded with story ideas consistantly! What can I say, I can't pass up a good storyline :)

1. Usually most of the story gets formulated in my head. Sometimes I can get to the end before I start writing, but it usually comes to me after I've started writing.

2. I say whatever floats your boat. I choose typing my drafts since I type faster than I write.

Linda Adams
01-18-2010, 06:39 AM
Anybody:

1. After you first get a basic idea for a story in your head, do you then go on to formulate the entire story in your head before a single word is written?



Right now I'm in the process of setting up a new story. I did a synopsis with the beginning, middle, and end (which I fully expect to trash at first contact with the story). Now I'm making lists for each of the characters I have so far. The lists are not characterization but bullet points on how the characters play into the story in no particular order. This is very different than what I've tried in the past because it doesn't focus on story structure and how the events will play out, but by giving me information and forcing me to answer questions I'd probably ignore for several drafts.

What I don't do is plan out the story, scene by scene or develop characterization in outlines. Scene outlines have never worked for me, and I develop characters separately of the story. It seems like I need less of the structure and more of the foundation, if that makes sense.





2. And how about hand-written first drafts? In other words, type nothing until it’s almost ready to send out. For a variety of reasons - legibility and time amongst them - I personally would avoid hand-writing anything, if at all possible. What’s your thinking there?

Never. Just the thought of having to retype it all ... Shudder.

Xelebes
01-18-2010, 07:20 AM
I stash ideas somewhere and until one grows legs, I won't be writing it. When it has legs, I'll likely be petting it and feeding it and give it a name.

The Backward OX
01-18-2010, 07:23 AM
Right now I'm in the process of setting up a new story. I did a synopsis with the beginning, middle, and end (which I fully expect to trash at first contact with the story). Now I'm making lists for each of the characters I have so far. The lists are not characterization but bullet points on how the characters play into the story in no particular order.
Can I take it from your answer that you don't outline the entire story in your head first?

Anaquana
01-18-2010, 08:58 AM
I generally get snippets of conversations that wander through my brain. Usually at the most inopportune times. If they're really interesting, I try to flesh them out and figure out what sort of story they belong to.

wrangler
01-18-2010, 09:03 AM
I don't decide. The muses decide for me. I have to agree with this statement.

Adagio
01-18-2010, 10:01 AM
A great idea for a story I keep in the back burner now came from a snippet of cell phone conversation I heard while riding a bus. The young woman was complaining about her immigration status, giving details that no one should have heard. Not to mention that she was talking in a language other than English, which, as it happens, I understand ha ha! Lesson: keep your private conversation, well, private.

Linda Adams
01-18-2010, 03:48 PM
Can I take it from your answer that you don't outline the entire story in your head first?

No, I don't. If I outlined in any kind of detail, I would go off the outline very rapidly.

Jamesaritchie
01-18-2010, 06:29 PM
I'm hoping the "fooling around with titles" thing will be another means of starting projects for me. I've been keeping a list of words and phrases that might make interesting titles in my notebook.


It has always worked very well for Ray Bradbury. Hard to argue with his success.

Jamesaritchie
01-18-2010, 06:32 PM
2. I say whatever floats your boat. I choose typing my drafts since I type faster than I write.

This is precisely why I write my first drafts in longhand. Or it's the primary reason. I type faster than I write, too, but I firmly believe this is a bad thing.

Jamesaritchie
01-18-2010, 06:33 PM
Never. Just the thought of having to retype it all ... Shudder.


I don't retype. I do the second draft.

CaroGirl
01-18-2010, 07:00 PM
I write (almost) nothing by hand. (Almost) Everything I write comes through my word processor. (Occasionally something comes to me when I'm lying in bed. I write that in a notebook and transcribe it the next day.)

My stories come in the form of characters and a situation. I think about these characters for a while, add more situations, think it through to some kind of conclusion, and then I sit down and start writing. I don't outline outside my head.

No one way is the right way. If I had to have a great title before I started writing, I'd never write anything because I'm CRAP at titles.

Fiddle with your process until you find what works for you.

Linda Adams
01-18-2010, 07:04 PM
I don't retype. I do the second draft.

Still too much like retyping to me. I type very fast, but I also make a lot of mistakes. Much better to catch the mistakes as I spot them rather than type a new draft and have more typos. And I've found that if I'm typing from copy--even if I'm revising as I go along--I will have a higher percentage of typos.

Maxinquaye
01-18-2010, 08:35 PM
I answer the following questions:

1) What does this character want?
2) Who's stopping him from getting what s/he wants and why?
3) What happens to the character if he loses?

If I have an answer to those questions, I try to do them. Most ideas never get past those questions, though, so I don't do them.

Dave.C.Robinson
01-18-2010, 09:38 PM
Lately my inspiration has been the old standby "I'll pay you if you write about x."

So I write about x.

Otherwise I just write whatever strikes my fancy at the time.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
01-18-2010, 09:44 PM
Fiddle with your process until you find what works for you.

AMEN!

Every writer out there has their own piece of advice, but this is the one I think is the most consistant out of all of them, and the one that benefits EVERY time.

Jamesaritchie
01-19-2010, 04:31 AM
Still too much like retyping to me. I type very fast, but I also make a lot of mistakes. Much better to catch the mistakes as I spot them rather than type a new draft and have more typos. And I've found that if I'm typing from copy--even if I'm revising as I go along--I will have a higher percentage of typos.


Fortunately, I tend to make all the same typos over and over, so I have Word set to correct them.

You'd think, since I always make the same dozen or so typos, I could learn to stop making them. It should be easy, but nothing I've tried has worked.