Writing Process–Example Time


So I promised everyone that I would show how I took my writing process and created a finished story. At this point I’m going to refer you to the story on fanfiction.net and livejournal in case you would prefer not to be spoiled; if you don’t care and are just here to see how it works, well, hang in there! This is going to be a massively text heavy post.

Sorry front page, you’re about to get massively huge.

1. We start here. If you’ll recall, this is “1 sentence summary and then 1 paragraph summary that I can work with.” For Now You’ll Never be Lonely, they are as follows:

“Tony falls in love with Steve’s newest employee.”

“Tony stops in Steve’s diner just before closing to find a new waiter closing up shop. Steve secretly is crushing on Tony, but sets up the two for a dinner date anyway. Steve admits to linking Tony while drunk, and Loki overhears and slips back into drug use. While Loki is detoxing, Tony admits to liking him; Loki tries to skip town. Tony convinces him that he wants to make this work. “

The paragraph follows the typical conflict structure of setup-first conflict-second conflict-third conflict-resolution. As such, this doesn’t always work for every story (in fact, my current project isn’t following this same process at all, goes to show you).

2. Next up is the character development. As mentioned, I do this for all major characters. Tony’s looked like this:

Famous engineer and playboy; rooms with Steve because he hates an empty home.
Motivation – realizing he loves someone
Goal – explain to Loki his feels
Conflict – unwillingness to express feelings
Epiphany – Loki will be gone if he doesn’t say it
Summary – Tony is intrigued by the new waiter and feels more comfortable with him than he has with anyone in a while. He’s a bit freaked out by Steve’s confession, especially when Loki leaves afterward. He manages to find Loki outside a bar one night when he’s planning to get shitfaced due to depression, and makes Loki stay at their place till he’s clean. When Loki goes to skip town and Steve calls him, he finally realizes he has to tell Loki how he feels even if he gets hurt.

3. I return back to my one paragraph summary and turn that into a one page summary of the story. Each paragraph is basically trying to develop on the conflict it covers.

As I don’t you guys to freak out about long this is, I’ll just link you to the google docs copy of the 1 page summary.  An excerpt of it is below:

Loki shows up at the diner because of a help wanted ad, and Steve agrees to let him start after taking a look through his references. He feels a little bad for the guy, clearly new in town, but he comes back clean from the drug testing and he’s very good with the customers. Tony comes in late one night before closing and the two flirt with each other almost shamelessly; Steve notices pretty much right off how comfortable Tony is made by the guy.

As you can see, I’ve taken the initial one sentence intro and turned it into a logical flow from one character to the next. If you view the docs page, you’ll note the different title; I didn’t have on solidly picked out till right before I finished it, so don’t mind that.

4. Major characters then get to have a one page summary of their arc through the story, through their point of view. How many of these I do usually varies; I’ll have more short summaries like from step 2 than I usually have for this step. This is for the movers and shakers the story focuses around, the ones I’ll spend most of my time in the heads of. Again, link to full page summary on Google docs, and excerpt below:

And it was… nice. He kept waiting to dread it, kept looking for any sign that Tony wanted him to be something else, or that Tony wanted to control him. He kept waiting on Tony to get pissed off about something trivial and scream at him. He kept waiting and it kept not happening. And he mentioned going to maybe something he would like, and Tony said sure, no problem, and he actually enjoyed it and liked it, and grinned at Loki like he thought Loki was just the cutest damn thing. And Loki wasn’t sure how he felt about that, so he called Natasha (because sometimes he secretly wants someone to tell him what to do and decide for him because he just doesn’t get people anymore) while he was tripping (but he kept telling himself he would stop soon because he’s scared of Tony finding out about this part of him)(one more thing to make him a monster). And she told him to suck it up and stop being a baby and enjoy himself or she would pin him down and tickle him till he stopped breathing and lay off the drugs, Loki, I know you’re half out of your mind right now (this is the first time in two weeks he wants to tell her but he doesn’t).

Already you can see that some things are different then how they actually ended up being in the story. Natasha doesn’t tell him to lay off the drugs, Tony asks Loki what he wants to do instead of Loki suggesting something, but the general feel of the character is there, and I’m starting to grasp the logic and how it all fits together.

5. And again, we expand. I do a four page summary that usually is blending the different perspectives and working through the upper logic of the story and how different things move into each other. I get an idea of the overall tone of the story here too.  Here’s the link to it; no excerpt this time. Here we have the overall structure of the story, and you can start to see how that one sentence became the 18k word monster that it is.

6. Then SCENES. This takes forever to do, and I back and forth over spreadsheets or not spreadsheets. This is also incredibly necessary; it’s much easier to move a few cells around than it is to entirely restructure and move fully written scenes around. You can see it here. Note that there’s an established flow already; I don’t suddenly decide to stop and create a cliffhanger. I group the scenes according to how I feel they will work best as chapters, and usually I end up with more scenes then I actually need (like how, early on, I show that Steve mentions hiring Loki, but then that never is in the finished work).

7- 12 are not really documented the same way (SURPRISE) because, well, I’m writing. I don’t save copies of the old story, I just write and go. When I’m stumped, I refer to my scene list–it also means there’s no “writer’s block” of not knowing what to do; just me being lazy and not wanting to write or feeling like I can’t. That sort of writer’s block is much easier to overcome when you know what happens next and write a few thousand words anyway.

And that’s really all there is. Hopefully other writers will find this helpful in some way!


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