Friday, February 11, 2011

Enough talking, let's write!

We've spent some time now talking about brainstorming our ideas, our main character, our secondary characters, our antagonist, and our setting. (For a complete list of the posts in the writing process series, click here.)

Almost all of this (for me, anyway) falls in the "composting" stage of things. At this point in the story writing process, I likely haven't written a word. Other than my blurby thing that is, where I wrote a couple rough paragraphs about my idea. The rest of this - thinking through how my main character will change, how my secondary characters will challenge her, where this book should take place - has simply been buzzing around my head. Maybe I've jotted a note or two and stuck it to my cork board, but by now I'm itching to write.

What I've found works best for me is to write the first three chapters before I do any other plotting.

Why the first three? I could spin some theories about how this gives me time to establish the major players, test out some flaws, and get inspired for some fabulous plot line I've yet to come up with. It also (usually) works out that three chapters is enough time to show us where the main character currently is and catapult him or her into what will be the meat of the story.

I could say all that - and there's truth to it - but the biggest reason I write three chapters is it's what publishers ask for when trying to determine if they want to buy a manuscript from me. Three chapters works well for my purposes; you'll have to find what works best for yours.

But you're not me. Maybe you have to plot it all out before you write a single word. For me, it's been disaster every time I've attempted to plot a book from "Once upon a time" to "Happily ever after."

The first three chapters help solidify everything in my mind. I get a feel for my main character and her voice. I discover fears I didn't know she had. I experience how she interacts with the people around her. I find the need for additional characters, additional plot points, additional flaws.

So if you don't really feel ready to plot out your book yet, try writing a couple chapters and delving deeper into your character's world before determining everything that will happen.

Next Monday there'll be a new writing prompt (click here for more info on writing prompt contests) and then we'll dive into how to write a killer first chapter.

Have a great weekend everybody!


  1. This is a great post. I never thought about the first three chapters being such a platform, if that makes sense. I think that I might try this method next time I start a new WIP.


  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Kelsey! I hope it works as well for you as it does for me.

  3. Great post, I was literally thinking about this the other day- would you talk about HOW to write a story :)
    I've tried to just dive in, don't think i got three chapters though more like 4,000 words & realize something missing! I either need to tighten the plot or plan a little more or idk? But I'm determined to find out

  4. Hey now that I think about it I just changed my email last weekend it is now .
    I wasn't sure if you would send it to the old one and then I wouldn't get it...well you see the problem.
    I just started the first chapter and I can see what you mean about getting the feel of her voice.I am going to do two main characters (Sorry, that's just the way it's working out right now)and I've only got a little bit (still on the first character) and it feels like I'll never get it!Does it get easier and more flowing as you go on?

  5. Idk Sierra I've been wondering the same thing?!

  6. Sierra, I think it's different for all writers. For me, it varies from book to book. Sometimes I've been thinking about my character so long I'm able to just jump right in. Other times, it's exactly like you said. I'm still getting the feel of the voice, and it takes a bit to get on a roll. Perfectly normal.

    And are you talking about writing prompts? I just respond to whatever e-mail address you give me.