I know what you're thinking - those two things, plotting and freedom, don't really go together. For me the freedom is IN the plotting. By having a loose structure, my mind is able to go where ever the character wants it to without worrying about getting lost in the muck.
So, what do I actually DO before I sit down to write that first draft. How do I instill a little structure in which my characters can play?
Here is a brief, and NOT all inclusive list of my typical pre-draft activities:
- Premise - I always start here. What is the basic situation and problem in the story?
- Theme - What are the BIG themes in the story?
- Plot Points - Once I know the basics of the premise and theme, I sit down and sketch out (very loosely) the major plot points. For me, this means I use Blake Snyder's beats. For others, this could be a basic plot line. The point is that I need to have some sort of structure for the story.
- Music - yea, I know, music. Soundtrack music to be exact. See, I can not write without music. Period. And for me, the music I listen too has to emulate the mood of the scene(s) I am writing. So, I spend time searching for just the right music.
- Time - Once I pull that together, the book will start unfolding in my thoughts. I'll see snippets of scenes, get a feel for little pieces of the characters. At this point, I stew. And stew. I obsessively listen to the "right" music and steep myself into the vibe of the story. This process may last a day, a week, a few weeks.
- Characters - During my period of stewing, I begin to have mental conversations with my characters. I get to know them in my thoughts. I may start doing some character writing exercise, asking them questions about love, anger, rage, hope - all the base emotions. As I write their answers down, I usual start to feel the story
- Once these things are done - and the process varies highly for every book and every project - I start writing. And writing. I prefer to get the zero draft done FAST, though up until recently, I was not good at FAST. Now, I draft in 10 - 15 minute increments, and I get through the book in nothing flat.
There you go - my process. It's weird, maybe even wacky. But it works for me.
What do you guys to pre-drafting? Anything?