One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got came from Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft, where he said (and I’m paraphrasing):
“Close the door and for the first draft, write for yourself. No structure. No plot. Only the story matters. For if the story doesn’t work, all the structure in the world isn’t going to help it.”
I took that advice to heart.
Think about how many times you’ve started a story only to have it languish in story hell because you were so worried about plot, pacing, twists, or the inciting incident, etc…. that you kept going back to look at what you did (and edit it) before you moved forward.
Editing while you write is a big fat no-no. You will never finish a story that way. Yet that’s how many writers never become authors or screenwriters. They never finish their stories.
I may have taken Mr. King’s advice to heart – but I’m not one to throw caution to the wind and hope I can make a story out of the jumbled mess in my head. So while I do follow what he suggested – I also use my own method which I call STORY FLOW.
The Overview of Story Flow (for Fiction) works like this:
- Story idea.
- Who is the main character? What’s interesting about him/her? What darkness is in him or her that he/she struggles to keep under wraps?
- Who is the main character’s sidekick? What’s interesting about him/her?
- Who is the antagonist? What’s interesting about him/her? What’s one trait that is good and unexpected?
- What happens at the beginning of the story?
- How does the story end?
- What “Oh Fuck Me” twist is in the middle of the story?
- A one paragraph summary of how I think the story will unfold.
Once I have all of the above – I write.
Why this works for me: I have a general overview that guides me so I stay on track but it’s not so rigid and unchanging that it doesn’t leave room for improvement. Plus writing the logline and synopsis is much easier when I have all the parts already written – I just need to put pieces together.
Next time I will go over the Story Flow for Non-Fiction.
What method do you currently follow to write your story? How is it working for you? Let us know in the comments below!