I’ll talk about this in a little more depth later in the week, but drafting is not my strong point. I’m a much more editing- and rewriting-oriented writer. Editing is my bread and butter; it’s the seductive minx that lures me away from writing new material. That said, I can’t edit an empty page. So how do I get to that point? Strap in, folks, this is going to get bumpy.
The first thing I need is an idea. This usually comes from a character. I get the concept for a person I want to write about and their particular struggles. On rare occasions, I’ll actually get a thematic element I want to use or an aspect of the worldbuilding first, but those are the exceptions that prove the rule.
Once I have that initial ping, I do some brainstorming. I’m largely a pantser when it comes to drafting–I like to be surprised by the story’s twists and turns. That said, I do need some basic information before I sit down to write.
If I got the character first, I try to figure out what their backstory is and how that contributes to their main goal. What’s in their way? What are they afraid of? What is their family situation? Then I do some drabbling to get an idea for their voice and how they move on the page.
After that, I start looking at the world. Because most of what I do is fantasy (except for my current foray into history/paranormal), there’s a lot of physical and cultural decisions to make about the setting. At this point, I also make a Pinterest board and start looting other pins for visual cues that help build my vision of the world. Rocky shores or sandy? Snow-capped mountains or forested? Other research often follows, but I try not to get too deep into it. I prefer at this stage to keep everything pretty loose and let it come together as it needs to.
To be honest, a lot of what I do with respect to this step is throwing a whole lot of concepts and abstract ideas into a stew pot to simmer. The rest, I usually determine mid-draft as need arises. For my queer fantasy romance, for example, I started with the basic building blocks of ancient Greece, dom/sub relationships, and gender fluidity. That’s about all I knew about the world going into the story.
The last thing I do at this point is set goalposts (I’ll talk more about these in a later post), which are carrot scenes or things that I think I might want to do during the course of the story. What happens in between those plot points, how we get there, and if any of them actually happen at all is largely subject to change.
All told, this part of the process can take me anywhere from months to years. I’m currently trying to refine this idea-farming stage so that I can turn out stories quicker, and it seems to be working. I’ve cut down the percolating from several years before I write a single word to just a handful of weeks.
On the one hand, this is good because it makes me more reliable as a writer. On the other, the next part is my least favorite, but I’ll talk more about that next week!