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Writing process meme - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Writing process meme
Interesting questions about the "how" of writing.

Klepted from kikei


1. Do you write your fics sequentially, or do you often find that you are writing the end first, and coming back to write a beginning later?

I've been doing a little more beginning to end recently, with the hour-long ficlets, but what I tend to do is write the beginning and the end, then do the middle to connect them. A typical scribbled scene in a spiral notebook would look like this:

"Listen, mate," Dean said quietly, "people are talking. It's one thing that you've got your problems with Harry, but it's something else to be caught snogging Pansy Parkison in broad daylight in the middle of Hogsmeade. You want to tell me what's going on?"
*
*

Seamus tells Dean circumstances of kiss and that he doesn't mind Pansy all that much, but that he's not about to tell her anything he knows. "Which, by the way, isn't much." Doesn't admit he likes her.
*
*

Dean walked away, apparently satisfied with the answer. Seamus went back to his Potions homework, looking forward to class for the first time since he'd been here.


2. Do you like to write one story to completion before beginning another, or do you have several stories in progress at any given time?

I tend to have quite a few going.

3. What do you do to get past writer's block?

Just recently? I beg people for challenges. Sometimes I'll go over to hp100 and do drabbles. Other times, I'll just force myself to write even if I'm not especially inspired. And there are times I just stop. Sometimes, the writer's block is trying to tell me something.

4. What inspires you for your fics?
Most often, the question for me isn't "What if..." but "I wonder how..." Hence my predeliction for pastfics--I wonder how Remus was bitten, I wonder how the Marauders met, I wonder how Fawkes came to be with Dumbledore, I wonder how Remus and Tonks know one another, etc.

Those don't always make for fics, though. Sometimes they just make for answers in my head. (Remus and Tonks know each other from back in her childhood.) Then it will be something else altogher. "Doll Army" came about because I was having a conversation with my mother and she reminded me about the play area we used to have set up in the front hall, and what a mess I used to make of it. "Father's Heart" happened when I noticed a very similar presentation of shots between Leia's speeder-bike dive in RotC and Anakin's pod racer dive in TPM.

And of course, the "How did that happen?" ends up extrapolating a whole lot of other things.

5. What absolutely kills your ability to write?

1. Depression. The fingers don't like moving and I'm as likely as not to say, "You're a great big fake so stop pretending to be a writer."

2. Canon balls. If new canon comes out negating some central premise of a fic, I can't make it keep going. I had some pretty good stuff going on Al and his third wife (Quantum Leap), but the final episode wiped out all of his marriages subsequent to Beth. I simply couldn't pick up poor, abandoned Ruthie again. I hate that episode. (Of course, it also shot a primary thematic interpretation of mine all to hell. I'm great with the canon worship as long as it's not firing at me. ;))

6. Do you plan your fics from beginning to end, or do you allow for some independent growth? If you do, how do you deal with any changes that arise in your story as you write it? If you don't, how do you bring the story to the conclusion you want?

Half and half. I usually have a general idea and develop it, and I really can't get through the middle until I know what the ending is, but the idea is pretty loose, and I let it go where it wants to, setting up only a few scenes ahead of myself. Knowing the end helps keep the throughline in place. I tend to use a basic Hero's Journey model sometimes, at least until the story gets moving on its own.


7. What time of day/place is most conducive to fic writing and idea gathering?

Idea gathering happens any time. Writing? I do a lot of it--though by no means all of it--between 11pm and 2am, which isn't healthy, but it seems to be when I have most mental energy. Why-oh-why can't the world be on my schedule? Then again, maybe that's why I work best then--no distracting real life in the way.

8. Do you tend to write certain characters, or do you try to push yourself to branch out into new voices? Why?

I'll find myself drawn to one character or another as far as "I wonder how..." went, and then the stories themselves determine the viewpoint. They aren't always much like me--I can't imagine anyone less like me than Tonks; even Snape is closer to my personality, and I don't like him very well. Sometimes they are (Remus, Harry), but it doesn't seem to be the deciding factor. I don't try to "push" voices. If I can't "hear" them, I probably won't write them very well, so I wait to write until I have some sense of how a person might be thinking and feeling.

9. Do you like to stay within certain limits in you writing (like POV or tenses), or do you like to experiment? What is the most experimental piece of writing that you have done, and was it successful?

My rule of writing is to use the simplest means to get a point across effectively. Usually, this is third-person, past, since that's the invisible point-of-view--no one is paying attention to tricks because there are none. In fanfic, I also try to at least get the flavor of whichever creator I'm klepting--hence a kind of formality in SW, a tight POV in Harry Potter, a totally different kind of formality in LotR. Part of what I'm doing with fanfic is experimenting with different styles I enjoy as a reader to make them part of my writing vocabulary. I don't tend to incorporate styles I don't enjoy reading.

Where I do get experimental is in imagery and sybolism, and I do love writing visions and dreams. Probably the most experimental (and I was disappointed that no one commented on it!) was a dream of Amidala's in The Ascension of the Queen, in which she envisions herself as the child Padmé from TPM, the young woman Padmé from AotC, and her AotQ middle aged self. She is in her grandmother's weaving shop, and TPM-Padme is spinning thread, AotC-Padme is measuring it out onto a spool, and AotQ-Amidala is sent by her grandmother, who is weaving, to cut it off. She looks down and sees that the material that is being spun is Anakin himself, his life force, and that he is in agony... and that it isn't her grandmother at the loom, but Palpatine. And she's torturing Anakin on his orders. This was using the three fates (Lachesis, who spins; Clotho, who measures; Atropos, who cuts), with the idea that Palpatine was weaving fate to his own liking at the cost of Anakin's soul. Later in the same story, I had her encounter a vision of herself as represented by each of the four elements, finally coming together as a kind of bodhisatva enshrined in a lotus (padme). As far as prose, the most experimental it got was that the dream (I think) was in present tense. I figured that with the weird images, plain, simple prose was the best way to go.

On the other hand, I wouldn't rule out using a different voice if it was the best way to tell the story. I could see myself deciding on an epistolary story--I enjoy them. Sometimes, first person is just right. kikei just posted a lovely story in second person that used that tense to good effect; I don't know if that would be in my writing vocabulary, but I wouldn't rule it out by fiat, either.

(ETA: That funky dream sequence, if anyone wants to read it, is the second-to-the-last scene in Part Two; easiest to scroll to the bottom and then scroll up to the block of italics.)

10. What was the most difficult story for you to write, and why?

The Sorting of Tom Riddle. It wasn't so much because I found it difficult to hear his voice, but because I found it very disturbing how easily I heard that voice. I have a few issues here and there with my own father, and in real life I always, always pull back before acting on them, but Tom wouldn't do that. The whole story, from a writing point of view, was a fight with myself to not censor. To be honest. That's not usually difficult for me; I tend to be an honest writer. But the whole conversation between Tom and his father was in a part of my emotional range that's the closest thing I have to totally taboo ground, and I made myself go there. I felt very jumpy after writing that, for several days. Not coincidentally, it's one of the stories I'm proudest of. In "The Body," Stephen King wrote, "You always know the truth because when you cut yourself or someone else with it, there's always a bloody show." That one was... bloody. (This is not to say that something like "The Doll Army" is less honest. It's just in a more trafficked part of my brain.)

11. What determines your plots? In other words, do you like to write about issues, or to add them into the plot in some way? Or do you like pure character development? Smut? Or is it random development?

I can't say that I've ever sat down to write about An Issue and had it work. Themes creep in and when I notice them, I'll develop them, but the only time I thought I'd try and address an "issue" (in this case, what would happen if someone succeeded in toppling America and taking control of our resources without adhering to the Constitution), the story was completely stillborn. The idea determines the plot, the theme, and the characters, though sometimes the characters suggest the idea, so it's not perfectly clean cut.

12. What are you doing currently to challenge yourself?

Not much, other than the drabble challenges and the gen ficathon challenge--idea being to write things I might not otherwise write. I'm in kind of a holding pattern. Now and then, I'll go on a formal poetry kick, to discipline my use of language.
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Comments
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: May 22nd, 2004 01:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love second-person present tense stories, but I can honestly say I've only once come close to happy with what I've written using the technique. Can you convince kikei if she'll let me read the story?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2004 01:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oops, I knew I was forgetting something. kikei's story, which I read this morning linked from wolfandlady, is Pretending. :)
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: May 22nd, 2004 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Boy, you're fast

BTW, I have a Remus/Lily secret keeping fic in the works for you.

And if you're looking for a challenge, I still want a Sirius/Arabella Figg genfic.
matril From: matril Date: May 22nd, 2004 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
This occurred to me while reading this. What makes you a good writer is that you're not rigidly fixed in any particluar conventions. There are those that you prefer, but you're willing to try anything if it seems appropriate for the particular idea. It makes your writing feel very natural, and also lends a fresh variety to each story. I've seen too many authors stuck in their comfortable ruts, whether style, storylines or sources of inspiration. It limits creativity, and your flexibility generally avoids that.

So I'm definitely gushing here. :)
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