How I Go From Story Idea to First Draft

by - August 31, 2020

No one has asked me about my writing process, but that's okay because I'm about to tell you about it anyway.

Not much of an introduction on this: Let's just jump right into it and deal with my initial process, from seed to a finished first draft.


I don't have any one process to get to the Concept of a story. Sometimes it'll spring into my head as a What-if. That's where a lot of my recent ideas have come from:

-What if there was a world where the last weapon against a dying sky was music?
-What if  two kids in fast food fell in love--but their dads were the leaders of rival gangs?
--What if the Chosen One had a daughter--but she was only the sidekick to a different Chosen One's adventure?

Another option is: I find a character.

-A girl decides to become a teacher--but her students are being murdered, one by one, by something supernatural.
-Twin heirs to the throne, lost for decades, know both that they're twins and that they're the heirs to the throne.
-In a world where it's been stigmatized for millenia to be born with wings, a prince hides his wings from the enemy armies.


The way this works most recently is that I start writing a list of potential characters and a brief little bit about each of them. When I was brainstorming Holding Up the Sky, that process looked like this:

-Daverby. Dad friend even though he’d never show it. Tough exterior. Doesn’t really have a heart of gold but would rather not cause the end of the world. My girlfriend is the most important person on the planet and in the universe actually. I might be a killer but we’ve all killed mosquitos so does it really matter. Skewed moral compass.
-Dulci, the desperate one: has played the piano since the age of 2. Better at it than you but would never say so. If this is Alice in Wonderland she’s the dormouse. Sleeps and plays piano and that’s literally it. Blonde hair, green eyes, not terribly pretty but that’s okay because she can play the piano. Doesn’t know what it means to “fall in love”.

Sometimes, this works out with a very rough concept which then turns into a MUCH different form within the story, as in the case of Drex in this same outline:

-Drex. The rich kid who got bored. Doesn’t really have a plan but that’s okay, we’re all having fun. Will probably rob his dad if it buys dinner. Not into Emery or Lissa, which is fine because they both hate him. Possibly has a decent heart but probably not. Still wishes he could go home for Yule.

Things that have changed since writing this:
-He didn't just "get bored"
-Would NEVER rob his dad
-Lissa is his best friend (although he still isn't into her)
-Has the most decent heart of any man alive
-Also he didn't used to be a blond--he had shaggy brown hair, much like Daverby, and was very muscular in a corded, skinny kind of way. Now he's blond with a silver streak in his hair and is just skinny.

Once my cast is set up, I start trying to figure out where they fit into the plot.


After all, if there's a character who doesn't do something, they shouldn't be there! They get backstories, front stories, their own love interests, a goal, a role. That starts to give the book layers, which makes it longer, which means I'm going to be writing it forever.


It's very rare that I start off with an entirely finished outline. I have an idea for where I'm going, a blurb, a cast, and some idea of what will happen with the climax.

Normally, that's it.

I get going after a while. I usually fly through the first 10k and then get stuck. Then I'll stumble around through random stuff and hope that the random things will turn out to be foreshadowing of things I'm still not expecting.


I get stuck, I write some random stuff, and I bemoan how much I'm going to have to change in edits. It's always a good time and usually some of the best ideas I have in the whole book appear during this part. 


And then I cry because of HOW MUCH I HAVE TO EDIT. It's fine. It's all good. It's the characters' fault.

What's your writing process? Any of this at all familiar or am I weird? Chat with me in the comments! 

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  1. This sounds very familiar (especially the part about characters changing!) except for the outlining part...which I probably should be able to do, but can't. XD And NOT having an outline drives me nuts, but OUTLINING even an incomplete outline drives me more nuts. Fun times.

    1. YES xD Bro, I barely use my outline. I write it out as a general idea and then throw it out halfway through xD So that's a factor, too xD

  2. Ooooh, this was a treat! I LOVE seeing how different writers form books. It's just so fascinating how we ALL have a different process. Although...I barely even have a process??? I kind of do it differently with each book, and my ideas come from EVERYWHERE. Sometimes I plot a ridiculous amount, sometimes I 100% pants with no clue what is happening. It's a wild ride every time. XD

    Although THIS was so utterly relatable: "That starts to give the book layers, which makes it longer, which means I'm going to be writing it forever." Yeppp. I tend to always start with characters, but no plot. And as I try to give each character an important role everything just...explodes. And yes, screaming and crying. Screaming and crying is a necessity. *nods sagely*

    I loved getting a little peek into your process! And, also, have I mentioned recently how brilliant your plot ideas always are??? I mean, all those stories you listed in step #1 just alkjsldjflskjd BRILLIANCE!

    1. Thanks, Christine! I love hearing about these processes too ;) And oh goodness, that's about how I do it too. I pretend I have a system but I mostly don't xD

      ME TOOOOOO I mean why write short books when you have a thousand characters?? It's always worth it *coughs* *dies*

      <3 Thanks! And ohhhhh Christine *sobs*

  3. I love watching your process in actiong ngl. xD

    Love this post. I'm hoping to do one on writing process soon actually. Might steal this idea >:)

    Although is it really stealing when we're besties? xD I mean, we basically agreed to plagarize each other anyway.

    okay, boo, love this so much
    love you
    you're amazing
    <3 <3 <3

    1. Thankssss xD I'm sure it's less fun when the entire process is just spamming you with texts lolzzzzz

      You SHOULD ack

      mmm...yeah a good point xD


  4. Drex has just grown into my most favorite precious character whom I love!!! (I mean besides Rish, no one beats Rish. <333) I love love love this.

    I try having a process, but usually I just procrastinate until October then try to get everything ready for NaNo then die with my non-existent outline. XD Fine, I've only done it once, but this year is shaping up fit the same thing...

  5. I love that one of the steps is screaming, cuz same. XD


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