Process Review

This post will review the various processes for writing narrative fiction. I am not an expert, but I will soon be an authority. Most of my knowledge of writing process comes from trial and error, mostly error, and also from failure.

The writing process refers to the steps taken and techniques used to go from idea to manuscript. It’s one thing to be able to connect the thoughts in your mind with the raw horsepower of typing to generate words per minute, pages per day, and stories told. If generate lots of horsepower but the stories make no sense, or are not entertaining, then you may as well drive your car off a cliff. (Please don’t drive off a cliff, regardless of your ability to write stories.)

This is an overview of the main writing processes:

  • Explore and Pursue — Start writing, pursue what comes out of your mind. You may hit on the opening line that leads to a great story, or you may not find that opening until you are a year into something else, but at least you’ll know it came from your heart.
  • Topic outline — Hierarchical list of the topics to be covered in the discourse, dominated by the story events.
  • Narrative outline — Description of the story events, including character studies and all plot points.
  • Deep character studies — Identify and explore all aspects of the primary characters, and urge the story and plot from character interactions. This is best explained by Noah Lukeman.
  • Dramatica Analysis — Use of Dramatica story guides which weaves multiple plot aspects (character interactions, themes, and plot events).
  • Mini-movies — Chris Soth’s technique of eight major plot segments, and the continuous and generous use of maintaining tension by playing hope versus fear.
  • Anatomy of Story — John Truby’s masterpiece of masterpiece analysis that breaks down all the elements of great story telling, and explains how to put them back together again.

This is the order in which I have developed my writing process. The dirty little secret of these approaches is that they all can, and probably should, be used for every story. The last three, Dramatica, Mini Movies, and Anatomy of Story, are not all that different from each other, and truly one or another may work better for you, so I urge you to research and investigate them all.

I studied and used Dramatica for years. The most likely reason it didn’t work out well for me is because I was immature at the time, and did not have good enough ideas or habits to develop stories.

I use a combination of the last two. mini movies are useful for pacing and keeping the tension during the story; anatomy of story is especially good for knowing what needs to be in the story.