I post to a number of e-mail lists where various discussions related one way or another, to my Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals. In this case, I should mention that one of them, DebunkCreation
has some pretty lively discussions.
There is one person on this particular group, and he shall remain nameless, who appears quite confused on a number of issues, which I will not go into here. But in the course of my, and other people's discussions with him, he more or less asked me how I write. I answered him, describing how I come to refine the stories I'm telling.
That got me thinking. Writing is an interesting process, but it requires a certain amount of discipline, and how you go about creating your final product, depends a lot on what sort of product you're trying to create. For example, the moderator of DebunkCreation told me he does a lot of research, then works from an outline. He writes nonfiction, though. And I've tried writing chapters from outlines. Or outlining the overall "story arc". But that method just doesn't work for me. Why? Because elements of my story keep changing slightly as I develop new Mdrafts, revise, and learn more about my characters.
Let me give one example. In the first draft of the first book, two or the Neandertal characters were looking for a third character called Mat. In that draft, Mat Fartraveled didn't show up until about halfway through the book. Which might have made some sense had he stayed a minor character, as I originally intended him to. But he kind of grew and grew and grew, and now he's a major player, and he will eventually have a prequel of his own, that describes how he ended up in medieval England in love with lovely Hild(another character who was originally going to be quite minor and transitory). Hild, Wulfwynn and Godric all grew and grew and grew, as does the villainous Ralph(he was originally mostly "offstage".) So goodly portions of The Invaders had to be revised.
The other interesting thing about this process is, that when you revise, you often cut things(and characters), to make the story make more sense, or else make it flow better. I don't, for instance, need the pages I wrote about people traveling from one place to another, unless something is happening when they travel. And at present, I'm working on a timeline, to keep this "cast of thousands" in their proper places at the proper times, because my Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece(s) With Neandertals take place in real, historical time, not some alternate history time I can make up. This, too, is going to require some revision of the plotlines of the first book(and possibly the second, as well). Also, one of the characters is a witness to some very traumatic — for her. I didn't describe this in the first draft.
I don't know if all writers write this way. Basically, I had four scenes(what I call "key scenes") all involving the lead female character(who bears some resemblance to the redhaired Neanderlady that's the "portrait" of this blog. I built my story arc for all three books around these "key scenes", one of which is supposedly "historical". And I filled in the rest from my imagination, and from what I knew of the period in question. This is perhaps not the "best" way to write a novel, and finding a good way — is part of the writer's learning process.
I must say, I'm still learning, and some of the things I'm learning surprise me. But being a writer, I have to keep on with it. For me, there is no other way.