I rely a lot on outlines. I get a fluttery feeling in my stomach when I’m at the very, very early stages in story creation. It’s awesome.
Writing an outline means something different to everyone. They come in various shapes, in different ways. Calling it an outline in a lot of ways simplifies it to a point that it makes it incorrect to call it an outline at all. In a lot of ways writing a list of scenes and figuring out the flow from a birds eyes view, is writing the book—at the very early stages. Sometimes when I explain my story writing process, I picture clay. Every time I rewrite the story it becomes an outline until eventually I’ve added enough clay that it is finally a book.
(I do most of this by hand in notebooks and then take photos of the handwritten pages which makes transcribing the pages into a word processor super comfortable because the screens can be side by side. I love it. (Sometimes I pretend I’m an explorer figuring out hidden passages.)—seriously.
I usually have the basic concept and handful of my heart on the table before I start my story building process. I’ve often been spinning about the idea for some time and care enough about the characters to explore their lives.
In the early stages, I talk to myself a lot. I write my questions like: Why is she so mad? And, then I answer myself. I do this for a while, and it’s one of my favorite parts. I found that when I truly let unfiltered thoughts down on paper, I discover some of my favorite ideas.
After I talk to myself for a while, I usually have pretty good idea where the story enough to turn my focus toward the characters. I typically start with a character quick-fact-sheet. I then embellish in areas where I’m inspired. You can Google characters profiles or make up your own. I usually do a combination of both.
Then, I write down ideas for three fairly import scenes- I usually make one of this the midpoint. For the first draft, I tend to take the midpoint the end, then go from the beginning to the midpoint.
I reread story structure books and posts that make sense to me. I highly recommend K.M. Weiland’s The Secrets of Story Structure. It’s a fantastic resource. I often find the clarity inspiring. It can be implemented at any point in the process. Some use it only to check on their flow and overall arc. I prefer to start focusing on it earlier in the processor
When I first write down character arcs for a story, I do it separate and in color. The color-code system helps me stay balanced and focused in my story telling. In no way does this limit my creativity, it just helps use it to its strengths.
My best advice so far is to listen to yourself as much as possible.