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Old 01-30-2010, 08:44 PM   #1
Steven Lake
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When is that magic moment when your story just starts to flow?

I'm just curious of the other writers here in regards to their writing. I've been working on book 6 of my Earthfleet series (I'm looking to finish the entire first saga so that I can fully nit all 7 books together to ensure that the series flows and is cohesive) and noticed something interesting happen with my writing. I started out a couple weeks ago, fretting, grumbling, and more or less having a really bad time getting anything moving on the story. I fiddled, futzed, and in some places beat liberally with a literary stick, my story, hoping to get it moving.

I even did a little hack, slash, burn, and rebuild on my character list in order to get things moving, which did help a lot. But it still sorta puttered along, not really going anywhere. And then suddenly today it just all popped. I sat down in the afternoon after mulling over the story for most of the morning, began writing, and before I knew it I'd pounded out the better part of 5 chapters in one afternoon. And it wasn't blabbering nonsense. It was good story, good character building, dynamic, and flow, and so much more. It was like someone had opened the spillway and the story just came rushing out.

And then I thought back to my other stories, and remember that they all went sorta like that as well. I would struggle with characters (It is hugely important to get your chief characters settled early on as they do a lot to drive your story and plot) for a while, then the initial idea, the basic plot (sometimes I'd write with only a bare skeleton idea of what I wanted to do, and then let the story build itself from that) and finally, at some unspecified point in the story, it suddenly began to flow and evolved effortlessly after that.

I still had to put thought into what I was writing, but everything just connected, the story evolved, and it was more like I was writing history than something new or unique. Like I'd been there and I was simply dictating for the reader everything I had seen and experienced. I even began to get really excited as I'd write, as though I were reading the story for the very first time as just a reader, and less as a writer.

So, with that said, at what moment in your writing do you experience that magic moment where the story just begins to happen and it pours out of you like a flood? My magic moment is typically about 15-20% of the way into the story once all the basic introductions are done and you tip over the line from setup into the main story.
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Old 01-31-2010, 07:23 AM   #2
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Possibly off-topic, but I have a similar (or at least similarly described) experiences with making a big software library work like it's supposed to be working when porting it to a different operating system, working only from user documentation. First I have to familiarize myself with everything, learn how it all works together, the ways of thinking about various interfaces, the quirks of some function calls and why they are there, and it's hard and boring work, and I start writing the code and it's still boring and needs rewriting as my points of view simplify. Then at some point everything starts to click together in my mind, and I can program in all the rest relatively quickly, and solutions to all the remaining problems are straightforward, resulting from the way I put the foundation together.
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Old 02-02-2010, 12:29 PM   #3
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Since I pretty thoroughly outline my stories before I start writing, I get the "flow" in most sections, start to finish... in fact, I usually wait until I get the "flow" for the first chapter that I officially start writing.

Certain transitional moments need a different kind of attention, in order to make sure one section dovetails with another, and I don't see much of a "flow" there. But overall, for me, about 85-90% of any novel "flows."

Following your analogy, I sometimes, but not always, get a "flood," where I'm so deeply committed to the moment that I just knock out 2-4 powerful chapters in a sitting, usually the climax of the book. I usually have to go back and perform the most triage on those sections, because, like a flood, a lot of material can be overlooked, subtexts can be subsumed by hyper-activity, and mistakes can be made and missed in the chaos of the moment.

I prefer "flow" to "flood," as it means the story that comes out is more coherent. I just have to be more careful to maintain the excitement of the "flood" in the appropriate moments.
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Old 02-02-2010, 07:14 PM   #4
Steven Lake
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Well, in my "flow" moments, kinda like your "flood" moments, I have a lot of triage afterwards too. I always consider my first draft my "scorched earth" copy more or less. Case in point. I was writing out two characters who, while not pivotal to the plot right now, add some key information that will play into the story later. I even added a third character as a helper, but the next scene where they're shown, he's suddenly awol and just vanishes, never to be seen again, which is a huge plothole. So I'll have to go back and fix that, or else just leave him out alltogether. But, alas, that's not all that uncommon with my initial drafts, as they're more there to get the story out, and the cleanup stage fixes all the collateral damage I leave behind in the process. ^_^;;
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Old 02-02-2010, 07:37 PM   #5
Steven Lyle Jordan
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I don't usually have such extensive cleanup as adding or removing characters or making major changes to characters, plotpoints or settings. My cleanup is light stuff, altering action or dialog to fit later inspiration. Then proofing. But my climaxes usually need more proofing, specifically because I rush through them. So taking them a bit at a time results in cleaner material, easier to polish, and less likely to result in a quick text change that I forget about later.
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:13 PM   #6
Steven Lake
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Well, I tend to rush through the first time anyways, not so much intentionally, but rather that the idea is coming faster than I can write it down. So as long as I get the core of the story down, then I can nitpick it to death until its perfect, even if I do have to do a little post apocalyptic cleanup afterwards. ^_^ I've also noticed that, while I have the whole story plotted out and outlined, as I go along and the story matures, things that wouldn't otherwise come out in the plot layout end up appearing later on. Especially as I start feeling out the characters and exploring them. I've actually allowed the story to sorta steer itself at times, causing me to chuck out large parts of my plot and rewriting it to suit the newer story flow, as it tends to work better than the original idea. It's weird how it works like that, but if I get a killer story out of it, I'm willing to let the story guide me a bit in my writing. Heck, I've seen some pretty amazing things come out of my stories that way.

Case in point. In book 2 of the Earthfleet series, there's this one huge colony ship they pass on the way in to Sebius. That started out as just a passing mention with a little bit of history and some explanation of the race that occupied it, but no interest in exploring it further. But as the story went further, I actually drew them in and that ship that started out as just a passing interest became an important plot element. So I guess that some of the carnage comes from the fact that the story and plot mature as I write, because I tend to explore a bit as I flesh out the story.

I've had other times where I've written something in, and the story went an entirely different direction than what I expected, thus rendering that little tidbit moot. So it ended up being dropped in later drafts. Right now I'm probably making you cringe, as that's not your way to do writing, but it's a system that works incredibly well for me. It also forces me to dive deeper into the scenes and the characters, allowing me, and in some ways forcing me, to dig in elbow deep and pull out some very interesting things that would otherwise not have come to the top had I taken it from another approach.

So in short, I think this would be best described as "living the story" rather than simply writing it where you're more the scribe than the author. And I'm not knocking your way of writing in the slightest, because each person finds a slightly different way that works best for them, and no two styles or methods are identical.
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:34 PM   #7
Steven Lyle Jordan
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You're right... I always have to stick to the basic script. Major deviations from my outlined story never improve it... but small additions can enhance it. That's where the spot creativity comes in for me, in the fine details, the dialogue (all spontaneous), the incidental characters, and the unexpected extras. Most of my "flow" comes in writing a scene and hitting upon an interesting element that will make that scene sing.
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Old 02-03-2010, 04:10 AM   #8
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I only get that 'magic moment', when I'm sleeping, and when I wake up I can't remember it...
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:46 AM   #9
J. Dean
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Mine usually come at the worst time I've got a very limited writing window, and have to make do with that brief hour. What's frustrating is that I'll start getting on a roll with it (ironically this happened today) and then have to close shop because the rest of life takes over.
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