Works in progress vs. writing the entire story first?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by AlisonC, Sep 30, 2005.

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  1. AlisonC

    AlisonC Jedi Padawan star 4

    Aug 27, 2005
    I've noticed that a lot of writers post their stories as works in progress not just here, but on many archives. How do you do it, without getting all your subplots tangled and realizing in chapter 13 that you have a plot hole in chapter 5 and that you're heading straight for a corner in chapter 15?

    I've tried writing that way, but it doesn't seem to work for me except with one-shots or *very* short multichapter stories (i.e. maybe three chapters). Normally, I have to get it all written and get to the third draft, at a minimum, before I feel confident enough that I've told the story coherently to post. Many times the plot and characters change from the rough draft to 3 or 4 or whatever it is.

    So those of you who post WIPs... how do you keep everything straight? Do you ever have the urge to go back and rewrite huge portions, or do you just retcon what you want to change, or leave it alone? And do you find that longer, more in-depth plots are more difficult to post that way or is it all pretty much the same?
  2. Exeter

    Exeter Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Feb 2, 2005
    Before I write a word, I have a detailed framework of how the story is going to progress backed up by many, many pages of notes. I make sure that most of the holes are dealt with before I even begin. It also helps to start assembling ideas before hand and modify them on the fly while you write, so by the time I actually sit down and start a story, the writing is the easiest part.

    Of course, I also have notes on stories I never did start, which is the downside...sometimes you want to start as quickly as you can before you lose the motivation :p
  3. Jennifer_Lyn

    Jennifer_Lyn Jedi Master star 4

    Jun 8, 2005
    I haven't written a seriously long plot yet, but I generally know where I want to go. I at least to an outline of what I'd like to see happen, though it generally changes as I'm writing. With a couple of exceptions, I also like to be a chapter or two ahead of what I've posted. That way I have a chance to fix the chapter before if I suddenly find myself in unexpected territory.

    If things drastically change, I consider it a challenge to work around what I've done before. If I'm totatlly and completely stuck? Well, that only has happened once so far and it resulted in a locked thread and a total restart.
  4. stormqueen874

    stormqueen874 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Aug 7, 2005
    I agree with Exeter. I haven't posted a WIP in a while, mostly because when I did so I would lose my steam right at the end and never update again, but when I did I had a well-thought out outline. Sure, it was subject to change as I fleshed things out, as most of my best ideas come when I start writing. But mostly I've got everything I want up in my head and it's all a matter of getting it down on to the page.
  5. Mirax_Corran

    Mirax_Corran Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 25, 2005
    Well, I don't have a good track record with this, but it's the only way I can do it. I just start writing. I try to have the next post started before I post one, but don't always. I also try to have later scenes written out to work towards.
  6. ladylaurel18

    ladylaurel18 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Sep 12, 2005
    I've got ideas for long stories, but always assumed that the way to do it was to be a chapter or two ahead of what you are posting. Which made me nervous.

    This idea of writing the entire thing first would be good for my confidence. I'm not sure that I could actually sit on a story for that long, though. I love feedback!

    Anyway, that is this padawan's two cents...
  7. DarthGaul

    DarthGaul Jedi Master star 3

    May 25, 2004
    My plots are always pre-visualized. For every story I've ever written....I've dreamt it. Like mini-movies in my head, I can see the story fan out and the characters as they interact. Basically I write out the plot and the different characters giving them each a mini-background and what they're part in the story is.

    I write it as I go because dialogue still comes to me as I write it, and while that might be chaotic to some...I find it gives me a chance to correct anything I might have missed. Plot holes are always in writing, it doesn't matter if you write it all out and post it or not. Even GL tends to over look certain details in his writing (which explains much of the prequels...compared to the original trilogy). My mind always carries my I know how each one should take shape and where it should end. It's the inbetween thats the tough part. But I take it as a challenge for each new chapter or part posted to keep it flowing and make it interesting for those that read it.
  8. TKeira_Lea

    TKeira_Lea Jedi Knight star 5

    Oct 10, 2002
    I think it just dependson how you can write. Some people can visualize a whole story in their head, plot twists and interlacing themes and all. Others need to outline, outline, outline to achieve the same degree of control prior to embarking on a story. And others just need to start to see where they're going and what they need to add to the front to get to the end.

    If you're the last type, I'd suggest writing all or most of the story before posting.
  9. Jedi Trace

    Jedi Trace SouthEast RSA star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Dec 15, 1999
    Good topic! I?ve always been a post-as-you-go type person, but I can see advantages to both. And, like TKL said, it just depends on how the story is set up in your mind.

    How do you do it, without getting all your subplots tangled and realizing in chapter 13 that you have a plot hole in chapter 5 and that you're heading straight for a corner in chapter 15?

    More than once, I?ve reached chapter 10 only to realize that the original idea no longer works with what was previously posted in chapter 5. Personally, I don?t retcon. It turns into a psuedo-challenge situation then, where you have to morph the rest of your story around predetermined information and still make it work. It?s frustrating and fun at the same time and, sometimes, the fic is better for it in the end because you?ve had to re-analyze.

    (I?m currently trying to write an entire fic before posting. I've never done that before and it?s going very, very slow. There?s a lot to be said for reader feedback and encouragement. [face_blush] )

  10. Jedi_Liz

    Jedi_Liz Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Apr 24, 2000
    for the current fic I am writing with VaderLVR, we wrote the first 6 chapters before starting to post. That way, we had two posts a week available to post. Now, we're writing the last ones as we go, so the wait between posts is at least a week if not more. I'd rather write them ahead - then we can check for spelling, grammar and puncuation errors. The readers don't mind waiting too long, but I think it depends on how vocal they are. ;) I've decided with my one fic, Lightswords, to rewrite it and get it all written before posting. Same with one other fic I am writing. I think its better to write it up ahead of time and then get a friend to help check for errors. That way you can see if you misspelled Anakin or Padme or another name.

    I also try not to write more than one fic at a time. I keep a notebook for each of my fanfics and write down plot ideas for the chapters, character names, etc. It helps me brainstorm for the next chapter.
  11. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Mar 1, 2002
    I'm currently writing a very long WIP (about 3 years now). I did a detailed outline of what I wanted each chapter to have in it, including red herrings and other things to confuse the reader (so that they wouldn't figure out who the bad guys are before I wanted to reveal it). I also have a timeline which can be very helpful when characters are flashing back or discussing things that had happened before the story started. If there are several OCs with certain physical traits, I keep a list of who they are, their titles, what they look like and maybe how they are related to other OCs. Continuity can be horrible to deal with if you are writing over a long period of time (you forget things:p )
    Also, in some instances, I wrote snippets of conversation that might be pivotal to some scenes ahead of time (I wrote the end scene first...LOL).

    As for going back and fixing something. I've only done that once and that was only something quite minor (not a plot change). I don't go back usually - too much time wasted when I could be writing more instead.

    I would agree that, if you aren't going to do a detailed outline, you might be better off writing the whole thing first and then posting.
  12. obi_ew

    obi_ew Jedi Master star 5

    Apr 14, 2002

    I have to agree with TKL. No two writers are the same. I know some who have the entire story outlined before they even begin writing. I've even met a few who wrote the entire thing before they even started posting. I can't do either. I have a general idea of what the story is going to be about, usually I have no clue how it ends, and I sit down and write each chapter as it comes. The only time I've run into small snags is with my series. Neither was written in order so I did have to go back and change a few things but never anything major. For some reason I do better posting a chapter and seeing how the readers respond before going on the next. :-B
  13. DarthAJ

    DarthAJ Jedi Padawan star 4

    Dec 9, 2004
    I write chapter by chapter but by the time I'm midway through my story I get bored with the idea and want to end it as soon as possible. And then I start a new one...[face_hypnotized]

    But with my next fic, (A Kill Bill/Star Wars crossover) I think I'm going to write and plan out the whole story and plot ideas before I start to write.
  14. GrandAdmiralV

    GrandAdmiralV Jedi Youngling star 3

    May 30, 2005
    I tend to post as I write, even with the really long stuff. If I don't have a formal outline, I at least have a definite idea of how I want the story to end. I also try to do at least one substantive edit of each chapter before I ever post it, just so I can catch as much of the niggling-detail stuff as I can. That said, I actually treat what I've posted (either here or at ff.n) as my first draft. With all the feedback, it's sort of like having an ongoing workshop look at it, and I can incorporate changes, corrections, and suggestions when I go back to tighten it up. Frankly, by now I'm so addicted to feedback I'd have a hard time writing an entire novel-length work first and not posting any of it until it was done! :p
  15. AlisonC

    AlisonC Jedi Padawan star 4

    Aug 27, 2005
    Wow, a lot of great responses here. Perhaps I'll try the outline idea with my next project - prewriting everything but only in detailed summary/outline form, and then moving forward and posting chapter by chapter. (I did the summary-first route for NaNo 2004, and found that very little changed from my original idea, so maybe it would work with this too. The catch was that nobody read my NaNoWriMo project and for fanfic posting it does get "published".)
  16. FelsGoddess

    FelsGoddess Game Host star 5 VIP - Game Host

    Sep 5, 2004
    I am a WIP author. :p I have a basic plot idea and go from there. Yes, sometimes I miss things or want to rewrite something from time to time, but this system works best for me. Plus, I like that I can change something whenever I feel the need.

    As for keeping them straight? I just wing it.

    AERYN_SUN Jedi Knight star 5

    Apr 1, 2001
    It's better to write the whole story first because when you post as you write, some days, you have inspiration for several chapters and other days, not. Plus, it's not fair to the reader that you start out with lots of posts and then you realize later that you want to work on something else. Eventually, you loose the momentum of the story. And that's not good. Write the whole story, get it beta'd, revise and then post when it's done.

  18. Commander-DWH

    Commander-DWH Manager Emeritus star 4

    Nov 3, 2003
    Heh. I can see the evils of both sides. I'm way too impatient to wait to post the story. My current WIP is going to be very, very long. I'm seven chapters in (six posted) and I've got a freaking lot of story left to go. I know exactly where it's going, which is good. I've got a lot of backstory for my OCs detailed in various places, and since it's sort of a novelization of KOTOR, I have a subset of options of where it can go. Now, it's not really going anywhere the game will let you go (it's somewhat based on an ending cut from the game that isn't even an option for a male protagonist, which I have), so that uncomplicates things slightly. I do have to figure out how to tell it in a way that isn't boring for those who have already played the game. So far, so good- seven chapters in and very little in-game action has been covered. It's all about what's been going on at the same time, but elsewhere.

    The problem with doing it this way is the problem I ran into- this is actually my second go at it. My problem is that I started in the middle, with the second game. I wrote seven chapters before I realized that I really needed to flesh out what happened in the first game, and how everyone (most importantly, my OC) got where they were. So I started writing the first one, then realized I had no interest in rewriting the whole Taris experience. So after three chapters of that, I condensed it into a prologue and tacked it on to the beginning of what I have now. I also got myself a beta reader who knows the story, and nothing is posted here that she doesn't approve first.

    The first attempt at it is still floating around the boards somewhere. It was all based on a single idea, that being that Dustil Onasi, rather than joining up with either the Sith or the Jedi, would be so disillusioned from both that he'd just go back to Telos and start an organic fruit farm. It became something of a running gag for me on the Onasi Order threads on the Bioware KOTOR boards. Starting a fic based on a running gag may not be the best idea. :p

    However, it's spawned an OC that I really love, and a story I'm enjoying writing. So, henceforth I'm making sure I at least have details before I start something huge. But I'll probably still post, just because I'm a feedback junkie like that.
  19. obi_ew

    obi_ew Jedi Master star 5

    Apr 14, 2002
    It's better to write the whole story first because when you post as you write, some days, you have inspiration for several chapters and other days, not. Plus, it's not fair to the reader that you start out with lots of posts and then you realize later that you want to work on something else.

    Again I think it depends on the writer. I have a pretty large body of work and I've always winged it, writing chapter by chapter and never abandoned a story yet. Yes there have been times when I've slowed down and needed someone to jump start me, but the inspiration has always come back. I also know of writers who have started and abandoned nearly every story they've attempted. Until you figure out what type of author you are, it may be best to either have it outlined or written before posting.
  20. Kudzu

    Kudzu Jedi Knight star 5

    Jun 18, 2005
    Antilles2001 and I have mapped our co-op out, roughly, and we don't anticipate any problems with it at all. As long as we don't leave any wide-open plot holes or unresolved threads...
  21. Neo-Paladin

    Neo-Paladin Jedi Master star 4

    Dec 10, 2004
    Personally I have a rough of everything before I post a word of a story. My muse is finicky, and has a short attention span. I can get 30 pages written in a day, and then not touch it for a month. It just wouldn't be fair to my readers to do anything else.

    Besides that I find writing as one story and then segmenting into posts keeps the narrative tighter. Also, it reenforces for me the idea that the story its self is the purpose of my writing. Feedback comes as iceing later...
  22. Inara

    Inara Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 30, 2005
    I tend to keep a lot of notes (often times they are longer than my stories), and sometimes I write down some inspried dialogue or ideas to use for later (I too sometimes write the ending first).

    Though I generally don't stray from my original plotline (I am generally ahead only by a chapter or two), sometimes I will change things in my story, like a plot point that I started but decided to end gracefully. The reason I never bothered with finishing the story all at once was because I'm not that patient, and my posts are so long that they'll never get finished unless reviews motivate me.
  23. DarthGaul

    DarthGaul Jedi Master star 3

    May 25, 2004
    I don't think it really matters if you write out the entire story or not...eventually a writer does tend to get bored of their own work as time goes on. Some days you get sudden inspirations and others you just wanna tackle something else for a change. You may only write a few chapters and get bogged down by knowing how long it will take to complete it. Either's not fair to the readers. You promise a story that takes time to create...and they wait and wait for it to continue...whole or in parts. It depends on just how loyal or how interested they are in your work, if they truly do enjoy it...they will allow you the time needed.

    Those that complain about losing the momentum are usually the ones that always rush ahead without taking it all in. Do you want a gripping story or a "fast food" approach and reading nothing but mindless action? Writing shouldn't be rushed at is a process that many like to explore and hone their skills. Granted none of us are perfect (don't point it out to us if you are. Heh!), but at least those that enjoy the stories are giving us credit where credit is due.
  24. Palpy560

    Palpy560 Jedi Padawan star 4

    Feb 11, 2005
    I have tons of WIPs. 8-}
    I find that Plot Holes are hard to come by.
    If there is one, I oft times make note of it to my readers or they let me know of it before I move on.
    My plots however are not complicated ones. Therefore, it is hard to get mixed up.

    I do have notes on some chapters and that really does help.
    Keep a log of your characters weak and strong points, stats, and current Wardrobe.
  25. wendynat

    wendynat Jedi Youngling star 3

    Jun 8, 2005
    I've written three novel-length fics in another fandom, and am working on two currently in SW, and have always posted WIPs. I generally set a "schedule" for posting, because I need that internal deadline to keep myself from procrastinating too much. I try to keep to a weekly update on my primary WIP, give or take a day or two depending on Darth RL ;). My second WIP I've promised weekly or biweekly.

    That said, I ALWAYS know the ending of the story before I post the first chapter. I know the major plot points and have a good number of pivotal scenes sketched out, if not already written. As I write, I'm constantly pre-writing, so to speak, future scenes. I have four documents for each WIP: the story itself, future scenes, notes/general outline, and timeline details. All of these files are constantly being updated as ideas come to me - bits of dialogue, new minor plot ideas, rearranging the timeline to better fit what I've written in the current chapter, changing some plot points or editing them in some small way to work in a new idea, etc. It's all very organic. I also carry a notebook around with me whereever I go, because I tend to come up with my best dialogue and dream sequence ideas while I'm sitting in traffic or grocery shopping :).

    I think WIP works for me because if I didn't have that internal deadline and "promise" to the readers to uphold, I'd put off finishing a chapter until after I finished XYZ or did laundry or watched LotR again or listened to the sound of Count Dooku's lovely voice again or stared at the wall or.... well, you get the picture ;). Other people are more disciplined, and completing it beforehand works better for them.

    I also love the organic-ness and the challenge of making a new bit of dialogue or a new scene work with the pre-planned framework. It's great fun for me :). I will NEVER abandon a story, however (unless I'm mauled by a pack of rabid chipmunks). I so hate when writers do that! It's one reason I read very few WIPs, usually only ones that seem to be very solidly plotted out already or by authors with a good track record of completing WIPs.

    /end long-winded explanation ;)
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