Monday, July 5

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, July 05, 2010 19 comments
While I was watching fireworks with my family last night, ideas for my next book unfolded like those lights blossoming into the night sky. Unlike my first book, which takes place in late December-early January and has a very compressed timeline, this next book takes place in summer and covers several months of story time. My story-hungry mind will keep me alert to scene ideas and summer sensations during the next week when I won't be able to spend time at a computer.

Brainstorming and planning is such an essential part of my drafting process. Many of these early ideas will not hold up over time. Some will need time to cook. Some will merely lead me to the path where my best ideas are hiding. But I've never been one to draft from nothing headed toward who-knows-where. I need these early months of generating notebooks full of half-baked ideas to get me started.

I started my second book last year and set it aside to rewrite the first. Thus, I already have the main story arc planned. Idea time now involves developing the details of how I'll get from here to there. For me, this is the most fun part of the process--when any and every idea is on the table to be tried and tested.

How do you handle non-writing weeks? Are you able to write drafts from nothing, or do you, like me, spend time at the front end brainstorming and planning?


  1. I love the planning stage too, Laurel - that's the fun part! :-)

  2. Oooh, I wish I loved the planning stage. Wish I loved the drafting stage. I've got a dreadful fear of whatever I'm going to write next and I have to admit it, I'm stuck. I'm using my current novel as a crutch, of course. It needs me. Must submit and all that and there's the blog. But time for honesty. I'm stuck in Research Noman's Land.

  3. I definitely spend time planning! Having a plan and a definite shape for the novel is the best way to convince myself that I can do it well. I'm interested by the compressed timeline of your first novel. My novels tend to span a number of months, because there are love stories involved and they can't happen in a compressed timeline.

  4. I like learning about your process. I'm still trying to find what works for me. My first story I wrote by the seat of my pants. I'm trying to outline a little for my second story. We will see how it goes.
    Good luck!

  5. It is fun learning different people's writing process. I definitely need stewing time to figure out what I want from each book idea that passes through my mind. Some will never happen, but some become much more than I originally thought.

  6. I spend time brainstorming and planning! I'm doing that right now for a middle-grade novel. I like having a loose outline before I start writing. I leave room for creativity and just seeing where the writing goes, but I like having a plan to steer me back towards the story if I veer way off track!

  7. I like the planning stage too. It's so much fun to let ideas flitter around in my head for a few weeks before I start to right. :)

  8. Nonwriting weeks? I read, I blog. Watch movies, hang with the fam. But if inspiration strikes, I document it so I can recapture the magic when the timing is more convenient

  9. My favorite part is the planning stage -- but for me, it doesn't last long. Sometimes, an idea can percolate for months, but once I actively brainstorm for it, I usually start writing within a few weeks. I can't write the first draft with no planning, but I'm also impatient and can't outline before writing, either. :)

  10. I do plan and brainstorm. Usually. I am not as comfortable hopping right into things. But maybe I should give it a try more often to shake things up:)

  11. Hi from Maine (I'm still on vacation...sorry I haven't been around lately),

    I definitely can and often do write a draft from nothing, or just the smallest idea. In fact, sometimes a character comes to me, and just demands I know her/his story. I watch the story play out in my head, while I type.
    However, this process requires HEAVY revisions regarding plot...but I do know my characters very well by the end of that first draft.

    Sometimes, though, I do let an idea fester and roll around in my pea brain for a while, make some notes in a notebook, and think in my thoughtful spot before opening up a new doc.
    Each book/story comes to me a little different.
    I am NOT a detailed outliner. Just the name 'snowflake method' makes me feel cold and dead inside. *shudder*

    No matter what process leads me to a finished first draft, I still slog through many more drafts during revisions.

    I've never tried a very compressed timeline. Intriguing.

    As for non-writing weeks (aside from family vacation/travel time, like right now) I'm usually doing stuff--going places, spending time with friends and family, doing projects around the house/yard, but I also make sure I find time to read.

    Happy (late) 4th of July! :)


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  13. Heh. Brainstorming, ftw. You should see the college ruled notebook I've been filling with chapter sketches and character notes. :)

  14. I plan mostly in my head, then write and go off in another direction. I'm trying to plan more on paper to get me a bit more focused. :)

  15. Shannon: indeed. It's when the editor brain goes on vacation and the dreamer comes out to play.

    Victoria: As Paul repeats to himself in Frank Herbert's _Dune_, "fear is the mind killer." I'm trying to embrace my fun, fearless dreamer self WHILE facing the querying process so fear doesn't permanently cripple me.

    Rosslyn: Pacing a story that takes place largely within a week's time frame required a lot of planning and much revision. It was especially tricky to work in scenes to periodically relieve tension so the story doesn't feel like a rushed melodrama.

    Christine: I haven't been a strict chapter-by-chapter outliner while drafting, but I do like to have a road map before I write much. I think putting in more up-front planning will definitely smooth the drafting process this time. I'll waste less time writing scenes that ultimately need to be cut.

    Janet: Stewing is definitely helpful. The ideas that still stick after brewing around in my mind are the ones that move from the brainstorm notebook to the planning/drafting one.

  16. Laura: I like to leave a little room for surprises in draft, though I prefer to do most of the wild veering during the brainstorming process, so that when it comes time to write full-blown scenes I have an idea what will happen and how the scene will function. I didn't do that initially with my first book and wasted huge amounts of time writing unusable material.

    Jemi: the planning stage can feel either very freeing or very "unproductive" depending on personality. I've realized that taking the time up front to plan does make for more pleasant drafting (with fewer dead ends and hair pulling).

    Vicki: Sometimes we just have to recharge to be our most creative, right?

    Sandy: I did what you describe with my first book. I want to plan a bit more deliberately this time. I guess my impatience has come back to bite me at times, like when I have to make a cut and it's painful because I invested too much time developing this runaway idea I should have told to sit and wait.

    Karen: I hear you. Transferring notebook scribbles to the computer takes away all the blank page anxiety for me.

    Lola: Sounds like you are far on the pantser end of the continuum. I think I'm just slightly on the planner side of center.

    Writing a compressed timelines--a few intense days of story time--is a great challenge. Subplots have to be put in motion with great care and with a cast as large as mine, I had to create charts to account for who was where and when.

    Anonymous spammer: don't make me pull out my Shakespearean insult kit. Prithee sell thou thy goods elsewhere.

    Simon: well, I totally loved the short story you outlined first, so there might be something good to be had from planning. :-)

    Holly: Planning patiently is a tough trick. When I've planned impatiently, I came up with a pile of bad ideas fast, then veered off and did something different. To let the plot flow slowly come together before really drafting--that's my goal. I'll let you know if the experiment succeeds. :-)

  17. That is awesome! I'm always collecting ideas, but mine are rarely even mixed together, let alone in the oven baking. I have this strange feeling that the first time I think it through is my best time,so I don't like to think it through until I'm ready to write. Odd, I know! I finally visualize the story arc when I sit down and outline before I start writing.

  18. Don't you love it when inspiration hits at the most unexpected moment and you know it's a good idea? How exciting for you!

    I do a lot of planning. I like to know how I'm going to begin and end a book before I sit down to write. The middle fills in while I write and do research. :)

  19. Non-writing weeks? What's that? I think I might suffer from withdrawal if I tried. ;)

    I love to brainstorm and pre-plan. I now have two books preplanned and ready to go. One's heavier emotionally so it's going to wait a little longer since I'm just finishing off another heavy book. I'd rather work on something a little lighter in between them.