I generally approach writing a story with: some characters, a basic concept, a start, and a finish in mind. The middle bit takes care of itself as I write. I’ll brainstorm ahead and maybe make a few notes on where I want the action to go over the next few thousand words, then I’ll write & when I start to run out of notes I’ll brainstorm some more. It works well for me.
I also tried improvising a story completely once for Scriptfrenzy. I just started describing the first scene that came into my head and the characters appeared on the page as they appeared in my mind. I did make a couple of notes in the middle of writing it, but that was because I wasn’t near my computer at the time. All I had on me was an old envelope, which was covered in scribbled notes on both sides by the time I got home. That also worked surprisingly well. (Though it probably helps that I’ve got a background in narrative improvisation, so I’m used to making up stories on the spot and holding the plot together.)
What I’ve never yet done – and intend to try for the August session of Camp NaNoWriMo – is to pre-plan out a story scene by scene and then sit down to write it. I’m finding it really tricky, because my instincts are screaming at me to do it the way I usually do. Now that I have plot ideas for the first ten thousand words or so, they want me to start writing it – and then plot the next bit, then write, etc.
Still, it’s an interesting challenge. I’m determined to get through any inner resistance and plot the whole thing before the start of August. I’m wondering if it will increase the amount I’m able to write each day, or have any other beneficial results. Time-wise it wouldn’t help speed up my writing in general, as this seems to take longer than the way I’m used to doing it. However, it might help for situations like NaNoWriMo, where I have to write a set amount of words in a set amount of time.
I think it’s good to shake up your writing habits occasionally – to try a different style/genre, or a different way of working. I’m hoping that I’ll learn something from the experience (other than that I’m mad to be contemplating a NaNoWriMo month when I’ve still got three stories to get through edits!)