The stages of forming a story

1. An initial premise

I get an idea from somewhere. Maybe I’d like to explore a plot, or I have an interesting idea for a character, or I saw a movie and was really displeased with how the writing/characterization/plot ended up. I spend some time, from a couple of weeks at the minimum to a couple of months at most, thinking things over in my head before I bother to start writing things down. By the time those months are over, things have typically changed quite a bit from my initial ideas.

2. Actually writing down the ideas kept from stage 1

Now I start writing things down. This either happens in on paper or in Google Docs (for some reason, I can’t do this in any other word processor). A lot of this is done in a stream-of-consciousness format. Readability or organization isn’t the point in this stage. I just want to get stuff down on paper and out of my head.

3. Proper worldbuilding, outlining, & characterization

At this point, I make some templates. These are based on the templates included in Scrivener, but formatted in a way I like. I have templates for characters and settings, as well as a general “notes” template I can use for things like magic, mythology, etc. I also make a timeline to keep track of events that happen in the story (as well as before the story, if they’re relevant).

For things like conlangs, I write up a grammar in Microsoft Word and keep track of the lexicon in Excel.

My outlines are fairly detailed; they’re essentially a description of everything that happens – scene by scene, chapter by chapter. As a result, the outline for each chapter is its own file in Scrivener.

This stage can take quite a while while I flesh things out. It also depends if it’s the main story I’m working on. If it is, then it might only take a few months. If it’s not, it could take years before I have the time to properly focus on it.

4. Actual writing

Now begins the actual writing phase! Most of the time I start off writing in prose, but something I’ve done in the past few years is start off with a relatively bare-bones script and transfer it to prose later. That way I don’t have to worry about finding the right word or describing things properly.

There is a problem with the script-to-prose approach: it takes me quite a while to add in the descriptions that should have been there from the beginning. This is something that happened with both The Book of Immortality and The Land of Two Moons.

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