Ever wondered how a writer first discovers then goes about constructing that book you have just read? I cannot speak for anyone else here, but the following are the basics as I see them.
First, an idea gradually forms in my mind, usually sparked by an item of news read or heard, or perhaps a television programme. It might even surface via a passing comment made while in discussion with friends. Naturally it will be vague at the beginning of the thought process, but eventually it forms into something worth writing about.
Next I play around with who the characters are likely to be. Are they good guys or bad? What personal traits do they have?
What genre does the story fits into? This is something that constantly sits at the back of your mind until you have finished writing it. It may start off as a political thriller in the early days, but after constant changes of mind, end up as a murder mystery.
Do I know how the story will end from the beginning? No, I don’t want to know! I definitely don’t want any form of ending to surface in my mind, or the words in front of me on my computer screen come to that.
Why? Because if I know the ending in advance, no matter how hard I try to put it out of my mind, the tendency to write to that specific end will mean only one thing – it will become a short story. For it to be a novel length work, the what, why and how of the story must slowly unfold as I write it. I personally believe the story must build to its climax, allowing not only me as its writer, but chiefly you the readers to discover its destination. Believe it or not, but even I want to know what happens next as the story unfolds. To that end I can spend days deciding where the next small part of the plot goes next and who is involved.
My daily writing regime means that initially I write no more than five hundred words, before spending the rest of the day re-writing them until they not only fit within the storyline, but also maintain the overall flow. Even with fiction you need to do constant in-depth research. Why? Because inevitably you will make mention of, or have your characters involved in, a real place or time, unless you are writing a science fiction story set in the future well beyond our planet and its solar system.
Finally – unfortunately these days, there is a tendency for far too many contemporary novels to ape the current trend within television and film to place the end of the story at the beginning, and then slowly relate how the ending came about. That may be fine for the intellectually challenged among us whose concentration span may be woefully inadequate. But most people of my acquaintance simply can’t be bothered with stories produced in that way.
I hope that this short article has at least answered some of your questions regarding how a story is written, at least from my point of view.