April 6, 2013

How I Start A WIP

As a writer, the question I get asked the most is ‘Where do you get your ideas?’. And if you’re interested, I answered this question in an older blog post. You can find it HERE.

The second most popular question I am asked is ‘Once you have an idea, where do you begin?’. This question is actually a bit more difficult to answer, but I’ll try. Story ideas come to me all of the time. The trick is being patient enough to wait and see if the idea has legs. What I mean is, some ideas come to me like a butterfly, then flit away just as quickly. Then there are the ones that stick, the heroes who won’t stop talking to me, even at three in the morning, that question that hangs in the air, day and night, that I feel compelled to answer. These are the ideas with legs. The ideas that force me to put pen to paper - or more and more often now, fingers to keyboard – and begin writing. These are the ideas that become my works in progress, or WIPs.

Once I’m ready to begin writing, I….heck, I’d love to tell you that I have a series of questions I ask myself or an outline I’ve worked up, but that’s not how it works for me. You see, I’m what they call a pantser – which means I write by the ‘seat of my pants’. That’s right, I don’t have much more than a title (which I can’t seem to begin without), and my hero and heroine’s name. If the idea came to me in the form of a question, which it sometimes does, then I have a bit more. If it came to me in the form of the hero’s voice in my head, nagging me to get on with it and tell his story, then I may only know how it ends. After all, heroes aren’t always prone to tell you how he got himself in the position he’s in, just how he wants that story to end. LOL

But, if the story idea came to me in the form of the opening scene (which is usually how they come to me) then I don’t know much at all. Maybe just what kind of person the hero/heroine is. And that’s when the fun begins for me, the moment I sit down and just begin typing. Letting the story unfold as it may, discovering the events that take the characters from the opening scene to the happily-ever-after. Yup, I just dive right in. No character sketches, outlines, or blurbs. Not until I’m farther into the story – like half way. For me, knowing too much before I begin spoils the fun. A complete outline before I’ve written a single scene, and I’ve lost the excitement, feel as if I’ve already told the story. Odd, I know, but true.

So that’s how I start a WIP. I get an idea stuck in my head, think on it a bit, then take myself and the voices in my head to my laptop and start writing. Does that make me sound a bit unhinged? Probably. However, I believe on some level all writers are...but that’s a different blog post.




12 comments:

mityte willseyeview said...

You are so right! Story ideas need to have 'legs' For example. I had an idea and basically scrunched my nose at it after a few days because it didn't seem like something worth working on. Last night...the idea came back to me...had me tossing and turning all night and thats when I knew I had to give it room to grow. When I did...ideas expanded and the character took off on her own. I only had to follow her lead. Excellent post!

Cheers,
Michala with www.bitemybook.com

Sarah Grimm said...

Thanks, Michala. I've had the same thing happen to me - turned an idea away only to have it return with a vengeance at a later date. Sometimes those become the best stories!

R. E. Mullins said...

In my vast experience (I'm writing my 2nd book now) I started with a vague idea. I built a skeleton which most would consider a basic plot and then went back and fleshed the sucker out. Sent it to the editor and then had the pleasure of rewriting the whole thing.

Jannine Gallant said...

I'm like you. I have an idea (usually an opening scene) and run with it. After a couple of chapters, when the flow begins to trickle, I make myself write a series of 1 sentence chapter ideas. Otherwise I'm rambling with no direction.

Marian Lanouette said...

I'm a pantser too and love it. My stories are like movies--I just have to keep typing until it stops

Lady Blade said...

Welcome to my world Sarah! I'm a punster too! *raises fist* Pansters of the World, Unite! My favorite T-shirt reads, "I hear voices and they don't like you."

Just sayin'...

Sarah Grimm said...

I hear you, R.E.! I think we've all done that at least one. :)

Sarah Grimm said...

Jannine - Once I begin, then my characters start talking (usually like I'm not even there) and I'm forced to write down there conversations then find a way to tie them all together. lol

Sarah Grimm said...

"My stories are like movies--I just have to keep typing until it stops" -- I love that, Marian!

Sarah Grimm said...

ROFL! I need one of those shirts, Lady Blade.

Charlotte Copper said...

Hey Sarah, pantser here,too, and I never have trouble with the names and title. I have to have my main characters names so that I can identify with them, but everything after that is up for grabs.

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