The Writing Process: IDEAS AND PLOT BUNNIES AND FIRST DRAFTS, OH MY!   Leave a comment

When you are a writer you need an idea before you start to write. Whether you are a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants) or a plotter, you need to have a story (plot) in mind, a character or a vague idea.

In my first published book, AINE, I wanted it to be in Ireland and I wanted it to be about faeries, but not the tiny Disney ones, full-size ones like in Midsummer’s Night Dream (by some guy named Bill) and I wanted it to be young adult. Okay, I have an idea. Now what?

Well, if you’re a pantser (like me), you start writing and see where it takes you.

If you’re a plotter (like many of my friends) you start with a beat sheet (Blake Snyder’s, SAVE THE CAT) or some other three-act structure worksheet you like and begin to plot. You might write out each scene (a chapter should have three scenes) with a one sentence summary. For AINE I might start out by writing: An American girl discovers she’s not human on her sixteenth birthday.

So, I had an idea and I ran with it. But let’s back up a bit. First, before I started writing, I researched all I could about Ireland, Irish myths and faeries. I found the name Aine (one of the Irish goddesses) and decided that was the name of my main character.

Here are the steps:

1. Get an idea. Asking “What if?” helps. Keep an idea folder on your computer/tablet/phone/notebook. Put in snatches of conversation, interesting news stories, whatever you fancy because you never know what will spark an idea.

2. Research said idea if you need to. Don’t spend too long on this step, otherwise you’ll spend all your time researching instead of writing. I mean, really, who does that? *raises hand*

3. Use a beat sheet to plot out your book if you’re a plotter but even if you’re not, you can still use bullet points to put in your main plot points.

  • Girl discovers she’s a faerie.
  • Girl goes to Ireland.
  • Girl falls in love with a boy faerie.
  • Girl decides whether or not to embrace faerie destiny.

4. Once you have your plot down or your bullet points, it’s time to start writing.

5. Remember this: FIRST DRAFTS SUCK. It’s a given. No one writes shiny prose the first time they put a pen to paper or fingers to keyboard or blood to stone or however you write your words. It needs to be edited, revised and edited again and again and again. I’ll put up a post about revising later (WATCH THIS SPACE).

6. A word about plot bunnies. What is a plot bunny? Those of you that do NaNoWriMo (thirty days and nights of literary abandon), the month you write 50,000 words along with a gazillion other writers all over the world (November) know what a plot bunny is. You are going along, writing your words to your story because YOU HAVE AN IDEA when another idea hops into your consciousness. That’s called a plot bunny. IGNORE THIS PLOT BUNNY. It will only detract you from your original idea. Stick with the original plan. Write your plot bunny down and go back to it after your first plot is done.

7. Not every idea you have is a good one. It’s okay, don’t cry. It’s true. Sometimes ideas strike  you and you start writing but something is off. The characters aren’t fully developed, the plot doesn’t stay interesting, the setting is boring…whatever. It’s all right to shelve the idea and dig out the plot bunny. I have trouble getting past 30,000 words. If I can make past that mark, I’m good to keep going until I get to 70,000-80,000 (my word count goals). But there have been MANY times, I haven’t made it past that mark and I stop and put that idea away for a while Sometimes it creeps up on you again and you revisit it but most of the time, it’s forever on the shelf.

8. Which reminds me, do as the NaNoWriMo’s do and just write. Don’t edit, don’t stop and fill in plot holes, write. Write it all in one big chunk or write each scene at a time even if they are out-of-order. The important thing is to WRITE. Read the last half of the last chapter you wrote and continue on.

9. Don’t be hung up on word count. You don’t have to do a certain number of words per day. Today you did 1,000 but tomorrow you might do 200 or none. IT DOESN’T MATTER. The plot/characters/story matters. You can always fill in later in the editing phase.

10. Let’s review:

  • Get an idea
  • Write it down
  • Plot or Pants it
  • Finish it
  • Edit it (more than once)

Go forth and write! Tell me the comments: where do you get your ideas from?

Posted May 20, 2015 by kathleea in books, fiction, writers

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