“Did you get the milk?”
“Good, and the bread?”
“I didn’t like the look of it.”
“You didn’t like the look of it?”
“No, I didn’t like the look of it.”
“So you’re telling me that you didn’t like the look of every single loaf of bread in the entire grocery store?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”
“You are so weird.”
“Let them eat cake!”
“I rest my case.”
“Did you get the milk?”
For me there are two things, okay three things, that I use to develop a story. Spiderwebs, research and “strapping in.”
Well, I call them spiderwebs, but I’m sure there are many terms for them. I make a little maze in a notebook with each plot point in a box and then lines spanning between the boxes to indicate order, offshoots and interconnections. It’s a snakes and ladders approach to plotting that is extremely visual and works for me. (This is a spiderweb for something I haven’t dug into yet, so I’m blurring it to keep my secrets. Yes, if you look really closely you can make out the word vampire but that’s all I’m saying for now. )
I’ll delve into this more in another post because I think it’s uber important and super fun. Yes, research is fun and if you can include a trip to a library or museum, it gets even better. For now I will say that hard copies are essential for me and everything gets organized in a massive binder so that I can quickly reference things as I need them. Some would say I have an unhealthy love of binders and they would be right. (Please ignore the dust bunnies.)
By the time I’ve done all of the above, the images in my brain begin to solidify and I sit down in front of my computer and strap in. For me, the story reveals itself like a movie, it feels like I’m sitting at my computer watching a film and trying to transcribe it as quickly as I can. It moves and changes, sometimes veering from my spiderwebs, but I trust that the research I’ve done is percolating in the background and I the let the story take me where it wants to go.
How do you plot your projects? How big a role does research play in your writing?
As a writer I have read a ton of articles on writing. I’m sure you have too, it seems to be a bit of sickness with us writers. Maybe I’m speaking only for myself on this, but I can’t be the only person out there that has scoured the internet reading about other authors’ processes and looking for validation. It’s hard as a new writer to trust that what you are doing is working, that what you are doing is “right,” whatever that means, and just go for it. So we spend many an hour surfing the web and looking for someone who is doing things sort of like we are so we can exclaim “yes! I’m doing this right!” and go back our writing.
Like with all art forms, writing is a very personal process. It only has to work for you. The reader never needs to know that you could only write while sitting in an empty bathtub or that you had to build a diorama of the house your characters live in and move them around room to room as you write. If it makes the story better and gets your creative juices going, just go for it! Your audience will thank you.