Previously, I spoke about being a plotter or a pantster and how I fall in the middle of the spectrum. I’d like to add that for me, every book is different. Some require much more detailed planning in advance of starting, others simply have to be written and forget the outline you dashed down because we’re going on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with this one.
I am very much a character-driven writer, so no matter whether well-plotted out or using the sketchiest outline possible, I need to know my characters well. They need to become real people to me. I imagine different scenarios, outside the story line, to see how they will react. I have imaginary conversations with my characters to get a sense of who they are and what their opinions and attitudes are.
Not all authors have to know their characters like I do, but for me, if my characters are not real people to me, I can’t write the story. So before I put one word on the page, I will spend a lot of time staring at the screen, the ceiling, off into space … listening for my characters to speak. One method that usually works for me is putting in headphones and going for a walk. Or going for a long drive. Until I know WHO I’m working with, I don’t have their story.
Writing the story is just the beginning. Once you get the story down on paper (or on a computer file), you then go back and re-read and revise. You are looking for mistakes (like missing words) as well as changing some of the story. EVERY writer makes changes to their work because they always find something that they want to change, something that will make it better. No one starts with a story that doesn’t need changes. It doesn’t matter how many times I review a story, I will always see something I want to change, so for me the hard part is determining when the story is polished.
One writing teacher I had stated the ability to write a story was the ability to keep your behind in the chair long enough. Inspiration of what to write is the wonderful part because your brain is bubbling with ideas and they take hold and haunt you until you put them down on paper. Then comes the work of staying in a chair long enough to get the whole story down — and to review it more times than you can count.