I’ve been writing novels for most of my life, but the last few years have been more prolific for me than ever, and I think it’s because I’ve found a method which works perfectly for me.
I have ideas for stories and I write them down, but besides keeping idea notes or bits of random scenes, I won’t actually start writing on a manuscript until I know how I want it to end. This forces me to know what the point of the story is, and to foreshadow clues to the ending all the way through.
I will create a loose outline of the story, and I’ll have some notes on the main characters — all of which are subject to change. As new characters introduce themselves I keep notes on them after they appear that I can refer to later if needed — this becomes important later.
I use my phone’s camera a lot to take pictures of interesting settings I wander into in daily life. I may never use them, but they go into a stash which I can pull from later.
As the story progresses, I will face blank pages where I don’t exactly know how to get the characters from point A to B, or more likely A to G, because my outline is so open and vague. I’ll draw inspiration from my actual surroundings or, if I’m sitting at home at my desk, I’ll either draw inspiration from Google Maps street view (in the case of something set on Earth) or from where I teleport to randomly in virtual reality (Second Life or Open Sim, etc.) or, more often than not, I either use a memory from my own life, or I pull from the stash of settings photos I’ve taken with my phone camera.
I will also pull actual events from my own past, modified to fit the context of the story, so that there is always autobiographical bits and pieces included. Conflicts and sex scenes especially. This way my so-called misspent youth was not entirely misspent, and the story is well and truly my own.
As the writing progresses, usually at about the 2/3rd point where I used to bog down, I throw away my outline and create a new one that is more in line with what I’ve actually written. By this point the ending may have also changed — though by now I have fully established a theme, which I do not change. It used to be I’d always bog down at the 2/3rd point because I would be struggling to reconcile the direction of the outline, which had grown stale, with the direction my story was trying to go. Now I go back through the manuscript and and refer heavily to what has transpired to inform my new outline and new ending. This keeps it fresh and exciting for me, as writer, as I expand on what is now familiar territory. Also I’m now no longer forcing anything for the sake of plot. The flow remains natural, and it makes sense.
The ending of the story will jump out and tackle me as I write it, much like a cat leaping out from around a corner to grab my feet. And then, I’m done. I type “The End” and feel really good about it.
I let the manuscript sit for at least three months without looking at it, while I work on other things (lately, it’s while I work on the next manuscript). But after I’ve let it sit for those 90 days, it allows me to forget many of the details, so that when I go back and do the rewriting I can be more objective, as if I’m refining someone else’s work — because, really, I am. None of us are the same person we were 90 days ago. We’re very similar, but we’re no longer the same person. Time changes us.
Huh … there’s a new story idea right there. The God of Time changes us into new people. Hmm…
I think I’ll put that in my notes.