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Writing is a solitary process. Everyone does it differently and ISN’T IT WONDERFUL!??!!?! How all writers sit and end up with so many words on the pages and no one approaches it or executes it the same. No one. Well, one thing is the same. The blood, sweat, and tears. So many tears.

So here’s my tale of how the stories magically (okay not really magic, like I said, there’s a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears) become stories. It’s fun to know how others do the wording. It can be helpful. It can be entertaining.

So last time on How Kathy Writes a Story, I shared the beginning of the process…the idea. How one tiny spark…an image, a sentence, a question…grows until it starts to scream in my head.

Then I move onto the next phase.

*cue dramatic orchestral music with lots of brass*

The notes.

The scribble-scrabble days or weeks or months of taking pen in hand and putting thoughts on paper. Yup. Paper.

Gimme all the notebooks. All the glorious blank pages full of possibilities.

I set out to neatly arrange my notes. A place for characters. A place for world building. A place for everything and everything in its…

Yeah, well, that lasts for about two seconds, then I let the mess happen. That’s how I work, in chaos.

I write whatever my mind tells me to write. My thoughts flicker from characters, to emotions, to the world, to bits of dialogue, to scenes…it’s a great ball of tangled string that I get the pleasure (really, me, pleasure?) of unwinding as I write.


Characters. What do they look like? What is their background? What do they like? What do they hate? What do they want? And for my main character…the character arc.  How do they grow and change during the story?

World. This can get complicated. I have created so many worlds…most for a series of three books. From fantasy to reality-based, the world is important and, for me, can be a character in itself. For fantasy, I design worlds based in a purely visual sense. I paint it in my head, making sure the colors and textures all play with each other. I add the people, the creatures, the flora. If it’s a fantasy world, I bring it to life with a history, religion (if any), government (if any). In both reality-based or fantasy, I need to know what the characters believe. I draw maps, of the worlds and towns and neighborhoods. I draw houses and jot down what color the rooms are, where the furniture is. I need the visual reference. Class schedules. Work schedules. There is so much to know.

The action. Any scenes that pop into my head, I write them down. Any snippets of dialogue are recorded. Pages of scenes, all needing to be put in place.

Any thoughts that come into my head are scratched onto a page.

All the thoughts.

All the things.

If I think it…I write it down.

That organization thing I pondered at the beginning gets completely lost. I rip out pages and shove them here and there to try and keep the illusion of organization. I keep important pages separate.

Though I do spend a lot of time going through those notes searching for that one thing I KNOW I WROTE DOWN SOMEWHERE WHERE IS IT…

But, hey, when you live in chaos, embrace it.

So where’s the outline? Yeah, nope. Outlines don’t live in chaos. I have a different method. The calendar. For reality based, this is easier with a calendar already in existence. Months, days…I know what happens when. I pencil in events that I know happen, leaving all sorts of blank days for all the things surprises to happen. For fantasy-based, this is harder. I have made up calendar years for worlds, but I have run into the problem that structured time just doesn’t work. In my Doors books, going from world to world makes it impossible to have a calendar.

Note writing is the most fun. Listening to the characters, asking them questions, dreaming up the whole thing is a happy place for me. Though most of it never makes it on the page, it makes the world better…deeper, stronger.

But, eventually, the note writing moment ends. I have to start writing. Do I know everything? Nope. But I know enough. Let the games begin.

To be continued…