The Writing Process: Get Ideas and Gather Information (Ep. 11)


Greetings, fellow literary people!

This week, Jennifer explains how writing a novel can feel like a daunting task, but if broken into smaller steps—character development, plotter v. pantser—it will feel less overwhelming.


Welcome to episode two of The Writing Process series. That means we’re brainstorming ideas and collecting information that will then lead us to becoming acquainted with our characters and the driving forces behind their choices. Let’s get to it!

So, we discussed in Episode 9 that an initial image, scene, or idea inspires us. But now, we have to turn one scene into several scenes. And before we know what direction to take, we need to get to know our Main Character.


What pours from your heart and onto the page shouldn’t be mechanical. Your characters drive the narrative, so figure out what your Main Character wants to say. How are they involved with our image, scene, or idea? How did your character get here, and should they be here? Do they have any bad habits? How do they feel right now? Happy? Sad? Angry? Scared? Let your mind explore their potential and follow them to see where they take you, and how other characters react.

If you’re not sure what your issues are, search for what real people or fictional characters around the same age, sex, ethnicity, creed, or economic status deal with. Sociology is great for this kind of stuff.


Character outlines are great for plotters and pantsers, but if you crave detailed lists, you’re definitely a plotter. Cluster everything you think of. Put your Main Character in a circle and branch off into details and phrases and whatever. Since this is a tentative list, try not to censor what you jot down. We can’t know what will come in handy later on in the writing process.

Make a timeline of character choices or events and their consequences. Visualizing our narrative can reveal connections and transitions we didn’t see before.

If detailed lists mess with your head, don’t do them. Pantsing isn’t just a prank you pull on someone when they have baggy pants. In the world of writing, pantsing is when you write in-the-moment. For example, when I’m inspired to write, I don’t need a deadline or goal in order to write a fair amount. On the other hand, when I’m forced to create a plot outline, or cluster information, and have a deadline, I tense up, I feel pressure, if I do write anything it seems strained or forced, and I just don’t enjoy the process. I feel like it zapped all the creativity and fun out of it for me.

Sometimes, we just need a kick in the pants to get going. Writer, I’m pleased to introduce you to your literary cheerleader, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short, or even just sometimes, NaNo. Oh, and that happens every November, so it’s actually going on right now. The grand goal is to write 50,000 words in one month, but it’s the NaNo community that I feel is the best part. From seeking advice on creative titles to collaborating on inspirational musical soundtracks, NaNo’s forums, associated tweets, and blog posts are chock-full of people eager to help in any way possible.


So, what did we learn today? The writing process is a messy one. And, because there are so many ways to organize your thoughts and to progress in your writing, you really just have to figure out what works best and compliments your writing style, and just figure out what makes it a fun process for you. There will be people who say there are so many rules to doing this part, but you really just want to make sure that you’re having a good time. And next week, we’ll go into more of the rules. But for now, just get to know your characters, figure out what they want, and that’s all you gotta do.


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2 thoughts on “The Writing Process: Get Ideas and Gather Information (Ep. 11)

  1. Once you master grammar, you won’t have to worry about it anymore. It becomes a natural part of your writing process. Proofreading and editing become less of a chore, and your writing sessions flow more smoothly.

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