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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Constructing Your Story: Guest Blog by Tracy Krauss

I'm sure if you asked ten different authors how they construct their stories you would get ten different answers. Here’s how the 'story construction' process works for me. This does not mean that it is the 'right' way, or the 'best' way, but just that this is what works for me.

First, of course, is the inspiration. This can be as varied as the world around us. Inspiration can be almost anything and can come from anywhere, but once that initial spark has been ignited, the next step for me is making an outline.

My outlines tend to start out as lists and then grow to become paragraphs as I flesh out the story line. This first stage is very loose, and I try to keep things flexible. I usually find that once I start writing, the story inevitably changes as the characters surprise me with their dialogue or another idea pops into my head. 

My next step is developing detailed back stories for my characters. I love this part. I often write several pages about each character, which does not always become part of the story itself. This includes family background, siblings, place of birth, key childhood experiences, likes, dislikes, schooling, etc. I find this really helps me in terms of motivation and even dialogue. I love to know my characters inside and out. I usually keep both of these items handy as I begin the next stage. 

The next thing I do is write a detailed outline, chapter by chapter. Inevitably, this changes as the story changes and I often have to move certain events (or eliminate them altogether) but it allows me to make sure my chapters are flowing into each other and that each has a specific purpose, along with an opening hook, mini climax and something to maintain a sense of anticipation leading into the next chapter. If I think of some good dialogue, I insert it, but I don't worry too much about details. I just want to get the basic story line worked out. I also find that this really helps me to work out things like foreshadowing and flashbacks. Of course, this stage is often very expository in nature, but it is simply to make sure that the ideas themselves get put on paper before they get lost.

Now, the 'real' writing begins!  I begin slogging through my outlines and fleshing out the ideas with description, dialogue etc. I find I often labor over the first few pages for DAYS. (Or longer) It is difficult to establish the voice, a hook, introduce the main character, setting and problem within the first few paragraphs without becoming too descriptive or expository. Even after I think I've got it, I usually come back to the beginning again and again and rework it - sometimes once the entire manuscript is finished. 

I tend to rewrite and edit as I go, and I usually find I need to reread at least part of what I wrote the day before in order to get back in the 'zone'. However, I don't sweat to much over the first draft. My goal is to get the story written. Once the bones are there, I will go back and rewrite several times, adding, changing, or eliminating as I see fit.

For those who are frightened by this prospect, let me just say that I usually have more than one project on the go at once. If I get bored with one, I move to another. Also, because of the nature of my outlines, I can move to a scene that I 'feel' like writing and come back to finish one later that is stalling me.

I now use a program called Scrivener, which fits in well with this system. Of course, there is a whole editing process that comes next, which is enough for another entire post!

 If you would like to read more of Tracy's thoughts or buy her books, go to


  1. I'm struggling at my first attempt at a novel, so I found this insight helpful. Thanks.

    1. I'm glad you found something of value, Johnell

  2. I've done some of these same things, Tracy.