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Weird personal writing rituals, let me show you them. [Sep. 18th, 2010|11:43 am]
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Fact: I can't start a story in earnest until I've both mapped out the emotional landscape of the story—and believe me, this doesn't even mean particulars as such, it just means that I have this amorphous actual shape or imprint in my head and under my skin that tells me what the story will feel like as a whole, how it will settle in that space in my chest, okay, dammit, I'm a freak—and, oddly enough, have a title.

What are your tics when it comes to starting/producing fan-work?
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[User Picture]From: almost_clara
2010-09-18 10:50 am (UTC)

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Whether drawing or writing, always start a session by erasing something you did last time.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 10:54 am (UTC)

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That would be roughly equivalent to my OCD-editing-of-all-previous-material that takes over every time I sit down to pick up where I left off.

Yep, that one's a classic *thumbs up*

Edited at 2010-09-18 10:56 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: emerald_embers
2010-09-18 11:00 am (UTC)

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I tend to work from a combination of two things; one, I have to have at least one crucial scene or bizarre one-liner to give me a cue as to where I start working from/towards. Two, I have to have a sensual clue as to the feel of the story. For some stories it's an emotion, for others it's a particular song or smell or image, even a physical sensation.

I can never really... plan a story. I know it's a cliche to say it, but it's a very organic process for me - stories are just born, they don't follow much of a logical process. Your idea of needing an emotional landscape before you write doesn't sound freaky to me at all <3. *hugs*
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 11:09 am (UTC)

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I can't say I don't plan at all, because that's not true. I end up with an overview paragraph, kind of like a prospectus, and then a number of bullet-points as I think of certain scenes that need to happen or certain necessary dialogue exchanges. I then start at the beginning and write in and around the stuff I've already jotted down, revising those bits as needed.

None of the writers I used to hang out with back Stateside could get their heads around my needing a title before I could start, or even the fact that I need to start at the beginning. They were all so capable of just writing from the middle, or the end, or whatever, and then stitching it all together. I can't do that; I am, largely, very linear, and I move through the flow of it just as the characters do. So much of what I write isn't in the prospectus or the bullet points; those are dry, curiously clinical. The epiphanies come as I push myself into whatever scene from whatever POV I'm driving. I love the shocked realizations that lead to the words on the page that everyone assumes are so carefully planned. Sometimes they are, but so much of the time, they aren't. I plot broad strokes, not minutiae. The minutiae happen as I go along, and I love that. It's my favorite thing about the process.
[User Picture]From: dragonmad
2010-09-18 11:10 am (UTC)

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I usually have to have a voice.

Usually it's the voice of a character saying a particular line, but it can sometimes be a scene, too.

Whatever it is, it's usually extremely visceral and detailed, with everything in that one snippet plotted out.

Everything else flows from and around that one moment.

I have to be able to hear it, feel it, or see it happening in my head, in that voice. Otherwise nothing works.

But hey, emotional landscapes or voices, whatever works right? So long as it gets written down.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 11:12 am (UTC)

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The having voices set is important for dialogue, always, I agree :) I run dialogues and tweak them until they sound right in the voice of the character speaking them.
[User Picture]From: clay_roses
2010-09-18 11:10 am (UTC)

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Compared to the other responses you've gotten, mine will seem quite shallow, but...I have to have a bottle of water beside me. It doesn't matter if I'm thirsty or not. If there is no bottle of water on my desk, near my chair, etc., then I become horribly distracted until I get one.

As far as my actual writing goes...I have to have at least a few keywords scratched out on regular notebook paper, sort of a touchstone for my mind. They could be just a few prompt words (usually nouns) or as complex as an almost fully-fleshed out scene, but unless I have those 'touchstone' words to glance upon every once and a while, I drift.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 11:16 am (UTC)

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Actually, I love your response because it admits to the need for proper set-dressing! I have to be seated at the far left end of the couch. Not on the right, not in the middle. Far left end, farthest away from the television, so I can put my feet up on my computer slip-case on the coffee table. So: your water bottle = Very important.
[User Picture]From: woman_of_
2010-09-18 11:12 am (UTC)

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For me it is a spark of inspiration that sets my imagination towards a story. It could be a prompt, a song, a bit of art, anything really. Once that has come it seems to grow organically, and quite quickly. I've tried plotting out stories and having outlines about where I want to go, but they often grow, and I've often been disappointed as I haven't finished them.

The organic method works best for me, with a good splash of inspiration thrown in.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 11:18 am (UTC)

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Oh, music, yes. On those occasions when a story continues to drag its feet even after it's mapped out and has a title, using a particular song or combination of songs is an excellent kick-starter. Songs have emotional atmospheres that are the closest thing to...the closest thing to which I can compare those emotional imprints I'm talking about, that's what I want to say.
[User Picture]From: mogwai_do
2010-09-18 11:24 am (UTC)

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My writing habits are probably no more strange than anyone else's. I'm fussy about inspiration, I've got to have the right mood - not mine necessarily - but the mood of the piece in my head, solid before I start. Which means my writing is very sporadic, because work, home, assorted other distractions often get in the way.
If I've got that mood however, I usually start with a single scene or spark which could have come from anywhere, recent examples being a dream, a throwaway line in an ep, a photo. Sometimes I write linearly, but not often, I must admit. I am a compulsive editor though and if I really want to write, but haven't got the mood I'll edit something and that usually gets my head where it needs to be.
I've had a long dry period lately, then the most recent series of Doctor Who took over my brain and I wrote a lot, then that got interrupted by life and I lost it again. I'm a terrible procrastinator. A friend rec'd 750words.com and I vacillated over it for a while, but then tried it and actually it's been surprisingly effective at getting me motivated; even if my writing varies in tone, fandom, quality from day to day, I'm actually getting something down so it feels like accomplishment anyway.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 11:50 am (UTC)

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I've heard about 750words.com, but I've been too lazy to look into it. Maybe I will!
[User Picture]From: aviss
2010-09-18 11:35 am (UTC)

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The moment the inspiration hits I can never, ever sit down to write it. If I do, then that story is doomed (unless is a drabble, of course) because I lose interest in it. I have to map everything from beginning to end in my head, even if it changes while I'm writing it (and it always does), and I spend days or even weeks writing small scenes over and over again in my head until the words are imprinted so hard I can just remember the actual turn of a particular phrase. If a story doesn't have that it won't get finished (or I'll hate the result).

For the actual writing of the story I need silence if I'm home. No TV, no people talking to me and no music. nothing that can prevent me from hearing my own toughts. If I'm doing it at work I put on some music I've listened to so much it's just background noise.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 11:53 am (UTC)

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Oh, I'm exactly the opposite! I can't obsess over scenes, or I might have them play out and then not be able to reach it again later. I hold off thinking about things until I'm somewhere I can actually write things down. I feel safer that way. I hate the thought of losing a scene in all its small detail just because I was careless enough to think about it. I can't memorize things if I run them repeatedly; my memorization skills are appalling (i.e. nearly non-existent; being in plays is, as a rule, excruciating for me not because I don't like to act, but because I can't memorize things easily and I fear being mocked for it).
[User Picture]From: the_moonmoth
2010-09-18 11:51 am (UTC)

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I can't start without a first sentence and a context. Usually I will get visuals of the scenes and the characters' expressions, body language etc., and my writing usually stems from describing those visuals and then working out what's going on underneath to have caused them. But I can't actually get going until the first words condense, cloud-to-waterdroplet-esque, in my mind.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 11:54 am (UTC)

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I always end up re-writing my first sentence about three times. By the third or fourth re-write, though, it's sorted, and everything else from there on out tends to co-operate nicely.
[User Picture]From: verasteine
2010-09-18 12:01 pm (UTC)

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Back when I used to write ::sigh::, it was an image. Either the image to start it with (the first scene, so to say, freeze-frame) or an image I wanted to achieve. I once wrote an entire fic because I wanted a hug in the shower between my protagonists, where one was naked and the other clothed. Sometimes it's a line of dialogue or a premise, but usually an image.

Often this will eventually warp into an emotional imprint/landscape (I like that phrase!) but that happens without real conscious direction from me. It'll often be things I already believe about the characters, but I don't consciously feed it in there. Does that make sense?
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 12:13 pm (UTC)

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The still image, yes, a tableau that you know is indispensable - I will get that on rare occasions. Most often the words come first for me instead, that iconic dialogue exchange of two or three lines that I just know will be the clincher. How cool to hear that for you it's the visual :)

Yes, it makes sense.
[User Picture]From: teithiwr
2010-09-18 12:08 pm (UTC)

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Ha, that title thing is interesting - for me, titles usually always come last of all.

I think I know what you mean with the emotional landscape. I need to know the atmosphere in a story before almost anything else. And I need to feel in tune with the characters I'm writing about.


(Gah, haven't written any fiction for ages and it feels bad. Cursed busy/emotional life. :/)
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-18 12:18 pm (UTC)

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For most people I know, titles come last. I'm normally the anomaly in the respect that I need a title before I can start :)

I'm glad the atmosphere/imprint thing isn't as weird as I'd been led to think. It's just that I used to hang out with loads of people who looked at me like I was from Mars whenever I said that!
[User Picture]From: ladynorbert
2010-09-18 02:32 pm (UTC)

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I have to have a title. Be it fanfiction or original fic, or even original nonfiction (such as the magazine articles I used to do), I can't have something simply called "Untitled." If it doesn't have a title, even just a working title that might get changed later, I'm paralyzed and can't write it.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-19 10:21 am (UTC)

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On the occasions I don't have a title, I wouldn't say I'm totally paralyzed, but the going feels rougher until I do manage to sort the title (which is usually before I finish).
[User Picture]From: irrelevant
2010-09-18 02:48 pm (UTC)

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I've found that for anything I finish, the first scene and the last scene are always clear in my head from the start. They're always what gets written first. The middle, well, that's negotiable, and always shifting.

I may add or detract from those two first scenes I write, but it's very rare for them to change substantially. If I have a clear idea what I'm coming from and where I'm going to, I'm good.

For just general writing practices, I have tendency to jot down one or two key sentences or phrases (usually dialogue) for a scene already plotted in my head that I don't have time to write out for whatever reason. Those sentences/phrases act as place holders. As long as I've got them, the scene and dialogue will come back to me when I finally have the time to sit down and write.

Titles are funny. Sometimes they come before anything else. Sometimes they'll hit me halfway through. And sometimes I have to go looking for one. Oftentimes, the one I think I'm going to use gets discarded for something better. I suppose titles are a little like placeholders for me as well. XD
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-19 10:22 am (UTC)

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I hate the cases where titles absolutely refuse to come till the end. Those are the titles that always feel so much weaker to me.
[User Picture]From: kiltar
2010-09-18 03:11 pm (UTC)

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Mine has to be music. I have a specific soundtrack (of about 20 songs) for each fandoms I read and/or write. If I'm not hearing the right sound track for the fandom I can't write, it's as simple as that for me. The songs I associate with a particular fandom are enough to get my brain into the right space - though it can be a problem if I hear one of the songs from "my" soundtrack out in the real world...it feels a bit like a glitch in the Matrix sometimes. :P
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-19 10:29 am (UTC)

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Hee, I hear you about hearing songs you associate with a particular fandom in public!
[User Picture]From: squeeful
2010-09-18 07:02 pm (UTC)

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I need a title before I can really get anywhere. I can write, and often do, but it doesn't feel like more than notes until it has a title.

And I have to know where each scene is going otherwise my characters just sit around in kitchens making and drinking tea all day. Literally.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-19 10:29 am (UTC)

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Which works better with some characters than with others ;)
[User Picture]From: tea_fiend
2010-09-18 11:14 pm (UTC)

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With you on the amorphous imprint thing.

The writing process starts in one of two ways: either agenttrojie and I sit and toss ideas round until something starts rolling; or, more often, she presents me with a haphazard google document filled with sketchy half-scenes and notes and says "Make it work!".

Usually what then happens is I get some grand overarching idea of what's going to happen and what's going to be involved (and where the poignant angst and/or crack will fit).

Then I transpose that knowledge back into Trojie's brain and she writes the thing, often with me peering over her gdoc shoulder and making suggestions. And then I rewrite her draft. And then she rewrites mine. And then I rewrite hers. And then we spend months and months twiddling bits and rewriting bits and generally overhauling the entire thing.

None of this would be possible without copious amounts of tea and nicotine.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-19 10:30 am (UTC)

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None of this would be possible without copious amounts of tea and nicotine.

Great deeds are rarely possible without copious amounts of these things.


Edited at 2010-09-19 10:30 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: windfallswest
2010-09-19 12:50 am (UTC)

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A lot of times, I need an idea of what a story is, which is maybe a little similar. How far that initial momentum will carry me depends on how complete my...overview, I guess, of the plot is. I'll know what the story feels like, what sort of thing the characters might do, but I usually reach a point where I have to step back and work out the broad-stroke skeleton, then the more immediate specifics. There are generally multiple iterations of this until I lurch over the finish line. Occasionally, I manage to push all the way through in one conceptual shot without stopping to outline or brainstorm, which is not to say one sitting.

Sex scenes, now, those I usually end up writing a line or three at a time, then distracting myself with something else for twenty minutes, another three lines, maybe give it a day or write something else. Unless I have more, er, pressing inspiration. I do a lot of getting-sidetracked-by-other-WIPs when I'm writing, especially on the computer.

My biggest tic is more in what I write than how: my brain does gigantic ridiculous Things with crossovers which insist on taking over my life, and having actual plot, and scaring potential readers away with their enormousness and obscurity.

I also completely fail at titles. They often don't get plugged in until last, or at least until I need to hit save. I usually open a book to random pages until I find a good line =/ And I'm never quite satisfied with my concluding lines--they always seem too trite.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-19 10:31 am (UTC)

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Sex scenes trip me, throw me for loops, make me spend hours more on them, sometimes, than I spend on the rest of the story. Not because I balk at them, but because they're so goddamned delicate. I perpetually fear fucking them up.
[User Picture]From: niphuria
2010-09-19 06:53 am (UTC)

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I don't know if I have a real 'tic' to be honest. I have trouble with ideas sometimes. Sometimes they just flow from seemingly nowhere. Lately I got some ideas from people requesting or discussing certain things and then I say to myself, "I like that. Not quite that way, but I can use the basis for something and write it the way I like it."

Many times I have an idea to start with, say, a possible blossoming romance between Mally and Chess. I just sit and say "how would it start?" And then I thought, "okay, at Mirana's Ball." And then I just start typing and it a bunch of crap comes out. :) LOL Hopefully most of the time it's not crap but I love those times where I just sit and begin typing and the story sort of writes itself.

Hmmm...so there's also a Sherlockbigbang? Cool! :)
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-19 10:32 am (UTC)

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Mally and Chess! I would never have thought of that :)
[User Picture]From: brewsternorth
2010-09-19 07:16 pm (UTC)

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99% of the time my stories seem to need a working title (I think the only time I successfully managed not to have a title until very nearly time of posting was a gift-ficlet), and generally it will act to shape the way I think about a story. And, since it is a *working* title, it's subject to change as I tinker with the story.

I've also got an *original* story idea that started out with one working title and moved to another that is proving more fruitful than the original but will require a muck-ton of research. That's sometimes another tic I have: go back to the canon and get my details right before I put words to page.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-23 09:16 pm (UTC)

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Ah, yes: re-reads are often vital.
[User Picture]From: lovelokest
2010-09-21 09:44 pm (UTC)

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I have quite a few quirks. I have to plot the fic out in my head when I'm not writing. I have some characters that just won't shut up (see: John Sheppard, Callum Keith Rennie, possibly John Watson) and there are some characters where writing is like pulling teeth (see: Ray Kowalski, Benton Fraser, Top Gear, Sherlock 2009).

My rough drafts are littered with (more here) (fix this) (fiddle with) (flesh out) (research), most of the time I remember to take them out.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-09-23 09:17 pm (UTC)

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I run plot-brainstorming in the background while I'm at work, sort of like a program that doesn't interfere with foreground brain function. It's a handy thing to do. Mental multi-tasking!
[User Picture]From: fiercynn
2010-09-25 07:16 pm (UTC)

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hey, wandered over from metafandom! Lately I've been needing music to get me in the right mood or frame of mind. And I'm really terrible at being able to associate songs to a specific fandom or pairing without something really concrete to connect them (fanmixes don't work so much for me that way - I usually just don't understand why this song is so clearly about such-and-such-fandom without someone spelling it out to me), so I generally end up listening to anything that's showed up in the show, or songs from vids. Also my titles are song lyrics more often than not, and having a title does help me too, so.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-18 12:31 am (UTC)

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Sorry it's taken me so long to respond; I've been traveling and such, and this post kind of got away from me! Music can be very helpful, I agree; I also hear you on the fanmixes-don't-work thing (or, rather, they don't work unless I'm the one making it).
[User Picture]From: cysfics
2010-09-25 07:17 pm (UTC)

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I need an opening line. I know it sounds ridiculous - everyone writes the opening line. But I can't even start building the story until I've got the opening line. This one is also a bit of my own neurosis - I never save a word document with my writing on it until it's at least two pages. It kinda insures against the problem of having half a dozen not-barely started fics on my hard drive that I never get around to finishing.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-18 12:33 am (UTC)

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Opening lines can be just as crucial (and serve a similar function) as titles! Once you've got that down, you've given yourself license to think about what comes next. And it's difficult not to worry about the first impression your story gives, too.
[User Picture]From: exposeyou
2010-09-25 07:42 pm (UTC)

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I find the best thing to get me writing fanfiction is to have something else really pressing and dull to write. If I have an essay due on literacy in the Victorian era, writing slash suddenly becomes immensely appealing.
[User Picture]From: laughinggas13
2010-09-25 10:28 pm (UTC)

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Heh, I'm exactly the opposite. It's more like 'Hey, I have all these exciting ideas. I KNOW! Let's go do physics questions.' Nanonwrimo was the most efficient month of the school year for me. :) (I suspect this is because I have... issues getting things to sound as shiny-awesome on paper as they do in my head, so I'm trying to postpone the frustration. Or something.)
[User Picture]From: trobadora
2010-09-25 07:47 pm (UTC)

here via metafandom

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An ending. I need to have something to work towards. Without that, I just don't get anywhere at all.

And yes, a title. The only things I can easily write without having a title in advance are short, one-scene/one-writing-session-type ficlets. For everything longer, I generally need the title because it pulls the whole thing into focus, settles the theme. Without it I just flail.
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-18 12:36 am (UTC)

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Those beginning-and-end pegs are crucial, aren't they? They sort of give you the security to hang everything else and rearrange, expand, or subtract as need be.
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[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-18 12:40 am (UTC)

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For me I have to have two things: I have to have something I want to say (ie. some idea about characterization/etc. that I don't feel has been said in fandom yet) and I have to have a really strong desire to read the story I'm writing (ie. it has to be the story I want to see/read/enjoy).

You know, these are frequent requirements for me, too, so I'm glad to hear somebody else bring them up! Example: my Big Bang fic is largely about Harry, because I have yet to see a story in this fandom where I'm entirely happy with the way she's been portrayed.

And writing what you want to read: absolutely. Hopefully it will be what some others have been wanting to read, too!
[User Picture]From: ninja_lurker
2010-09-26 04:54 am (UTC)

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Here via Metafandom. Great question—I've enjoyed reading all the responses.

The best creative time for me is right before I go to sleep. Generally I'll get a concept, a handful of key scenes, and one or two lines of essential dialogue that must be included somewhere in the story. My ritual is to rerun the concept and scenes the next few nights, playing with characters' actions, reactions, and dialogue choices in each version. I cannot write (or at least write well) until the story settles into itself—until it has taken all the best parts from each version and coalesced into a feeling. I don't have to have all the details, and they don't actually have to play out in writing the way they did in my head, but I must have that certainty of the story being ready.

I normally sketch out an brief summary next. The common saying is "Show, don't tell," but I have to tell myself the story before I can show it. The summary/outline doesn't need to be comprehensive; it's more of a shorthand so I can refer to the concept, conflict, important scenes, and sometimes the ending as I write.

I always write linearly, though I can include placeholders for things I have to write later: "Expand upon Character X's reaction" or "Add moar zombies." The title comes last and is usually pretty easy.

Then I have to edit, and edit again, then compose a post and edit it after previewing, then edit a few more times once it's posted to catch all the typos I somehow missed on all previous rounds of editing...
[User Picture]From: irisbleufic
2010-10-18 12:41 am (UTC)

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I try to stop myself from thinking about works in progress as I fall asleep, because I've noticed that about the edges of slipping under - the mind is vulnerable, open, and likely to start spouting a lot of useful stuff! The trouble is, I'm usually too tired to get up and jot it down, and then I'm trawling my thoughts in the morning, wondering what I've lost. Broad concepts are fine for consideration just before bed, I suppose, as they tend not to slip away, but I try not to let the tape run on dialogue. It's dialogue I'm most likely to lose.
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