If you read my post from Monday, you know that I’m writing a short story about a bonfire this week. But as I started writing, I started thinking that instead of just posting the finished product, I could walk you through the process of how I write!
Why would I do this? Well, it’s helpful to me to see how people write, even though not everyone goes through the writing process in the same way! I think that both new and seasoned writers can learn from a person’s writing process.
And, well, it’s just fun!
I’m going to be really transparent with this process, so you may see some bad grammar/spelling, some bad writing in general, and some really sloppy handwriting. It’s all part of the journey, right?
So, without further ado, here’s how I go through the writing process.
As I also said in my Monday post, a lot of times, if I’m starting out with a single idea from a prompt or something similar, I like to turn that idea on its head. I always want my stories to be creative and memorable, which is why I try to avoid doing “the same old thing” (although that’s not always bad!).
With the bonfire prompt, I immediately thought: space. Because, you know, there isn’t any oxygen for fire to feed on in space.
Now, I don’t literally mean a fire in space, because that’s impossible (and while I’m fine with stretching reality a bit, for this prompt, I wanted to stick with this fact), but I definitely wanted it to be sci-fi.
So next, I turned to my notebook. I always write my idea down on paper because my thoughts just flow better that way. (If it was more efficient, I’d write my entire books down on paper!) Here’s what I wrote about the bonfire prompt:
As you can see, I had a few ideas, one of which I scrapped because I didn’t feel like doing the research that would be involved. (But notice that I didn’t cross it out–it might be something I can use for a future project!)
Making Up Aliens
For this short story, I’ve imagined one main character. When it comes to sci-fi (and fantasy as well), one thing that helps me out a ton is fantasynamegenerators.com. (If you haven’t been on this website and you’re a sci-fi/fantasy writer, get your butt over there right now.) In this case, something I’d use is their alien description generator, which does just what it says on the tin. I’ll occasionally have an idea for what an alien looks like, but as most of the time I have no clue and it doesn’t really matter for my story, I’ll use this generator to create an alien species (although I always tweak it a bit). Sometimes I’ll take the whole description, or sometimes I’ll take bits from several descriptions that I like and put them all together to make something awesome! So let’s have a look at what I get:
“These aliens are a type of reptile. They have two arms and six legs, with a short, weak tail.
They have four eyes which sit thightly in their sockets and can often make them appear to be honest. Their eyesight is fairly good.
Their thin mouths and tiny noses often make these aliens appear to be friendly, but looks can be deceiving.
Their ears are small and pointy and their hearing is impressive. They also have two horns on their heads.
Their skin is smooth, yet strong. It’s covered in thick, strong scales.
Their scale colors are mostly brown, dark pink and light orange, which tend to become dim as they age.
The males are usually more adventurous than their female counter part and their colors are lighter. The females, however, are usually more vulgar.”
Cool! I like this. It’s a sort of draconic species, and if you haven’t noticed yet, I love dragons. Something I’ll toss is the six legs part, because for whatever reason I generally don’t like to make creatures with a ton of limbs (maybe it’s because I don’t like bugs…). Instead, I’ll reduce it to four legs and two arms. I’m imagining a creature that’s like a cross between a lizard and a dragon, except with a short tail and no fire breathing.
Now that I have that image in my head, it’s time to move on to naming the species. Again, I’ll turn to Fantasy Name Generators and usually go through a few lists before I find something I like. This time, I liked the name “Nak” for the species. It seems to fit their description, at least in my imagination.
Next, the details.
The Main Character Himself
For whatever reason, I usually imagine the gender of the main character as soon as I think of the story. In this case, I want my main character to be male. To fit the descriptions above, I’ll give him light orange scales and an eyepatch. In my notes, I said I wanted him to be some kind of criminal, so his loss of an eye can tell of his past.
I’ll turn to the alien species name generator again to name my character because I’m more likely to find a name that fits the name of the species I’ve chosen, if that makes sense. After a few goes, I found the name Ele. It’s short, like the name of the species, but it’s memorable.
So I’ve got the main character. (You’ll notice that while I’ve given Ele a vague past, I haven’t determined what his personality or anything is like. For short stories, I tend to figure this out as I’m writing–one of the reasons why I’m what they call a “pantser.” I figure out just enough to go on, then see where the story takes me.)
Time to move on to…
I already know I want this to take place in space. I imagine that after being on the run for so many years, Ele has a trusty ship with a personality of its own (though whether it’s a literal personality through AI or just a worn ship that’s been inhabited for so long that it looks like it has a personality, we’ll see).
I also know that the bonfire will be on a planet that houses a species Ele is not familiar with, as he’s travelled out of his own galaxy to escape the authorities. I’m thinking of the planet having vast, dusty plains with tall mountains. There isn’t a lot of grass, but there are some thin trees scattered throughout the place. And I want to give the planet a memorable element too, so I’ll make the bonfire a natural product of the planet itself. I’m not sure how yet, but maybe it’s caused by volcanic activity beneath the surface of the planet, a certain type of plant, or some kind of wildlife. We’ll see!
It’s actually weird writing this out, because writing this post has taken me about twice as long as it would take me to actually do all of this! It’s a process that takes me maybe 30 minutes, usually less, as I prioritise actually getting to writing.
And speaking of that, it’s time to stretch my typing fingers and get going with the story! This is usually about the extent of planning I normally do for short stories, and from there, we’ll see what happens.
Look out for Part 2 next week where you’ll see my actual, unpolished rough draft!
4 thoughts on “The Writing Process (Part 1)”
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I always find the creative processes of other writers to be such a treat. Maybe it’s because seeing how they work helps me get over the fact that I’m not doing any, lol. I actually enjoy drafting longhand too, and I’ve written an entire novel with pen and paper (I blame Neil Gaiman), but just like you said, it’s a real inefficient way to approach the first draft.
One upside to that is that anything that enters your word processor is basically going to be the second draft, which means that your ‘first’ electronic draft is going to be so much more polished than if you were to start in the word processor.
I’ll be going through the rest of your series, that’s for sure!
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That’s incredible you wrote an entire novel on paper! And it is great that you get the benefit of a more polished second draft on the computer. That’s how I used to do it when I was in high school, but I think what really hinders me now is my hand’s stamina 😂 If I can ever write legibly left-handed, maybe I can work with that method again and switch writing hands when one gets too tired!
I hope you enjoy the series!