First comes coffee. Period.
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For me, after the required coffee provisions are met, if there's a new seed and new work at hand, then before I get into the bulk of the writing the whiteboards and planning come into play, followed by reading.
It starts in my head with that seed of an idea. When it starts to root, it goes to the whiteboard. Here that nifty scheme gets explored and refined. In the case of Seph books, I'll research what has come before that is primarily relevant to this story and make notes, draw lines, use colors and make it interesting to look at because, hey, yeah, the artsy shit in my head doesn't turn off.
Once the appropriate connections seem made, I start plotting. Might be a few beats like the points on a W plot frame. You know, two triggers leading two turning points before the resolution. Easy, right.
Whew, we needed that laugh, you and I, didn't we? Yeah. Writing a book is never easy. But starting a plot can be as simple as five sentences.
Point 1.) Due to feisty droids, Luke meets Ben.
Neo's at work one day, gets a weird package, and a weirder call.
Harry finds out he's a wizard, is sent to Hogwarts.
Point 2.) Due to his Aunt and Uncle's deaths, he leaves with Ben and meets Han and Chewie, and shortly are captured.
He learns about this reality, doesn't believe it when Morpheus says he's special.
Harry makes friends, meets his teachers, learns about the school and his parent's.
Point 3.) The group hides on the Falcon, come out later, rescue the princess and get away with the important plans.
Neo trains, meets with Oracle. He still doesn't believe.
The potions teacher seems to be up to no good, which Harry investigates
Point 4.) Regrouping with the Rebellion, they plan how to defend against the attack that is inevitable.
Baddies attack, take Morpheus, and Neo and Co come up with a plan.
Harry and his friends face various trials and 3 headed dog
Point 5.) Luke hits the mark and destroys the Death Star.
Neo accepts his fate and faces the baddies and wins.
Harry faces and defeats the true bad-guy, another teacher than suspected.
Okay, okay, I over simplified it, but you get the point, yes?
Knowing a few beats allows me the freedom to explore the story and characters as I learn more about them through research and through the writing itself, so the whole process is discovery in large or small ways.
Those few sentences (or less) might be all a panster needs to write a whole novel. But I like a little more. Not a full forty-page outline, but the main points, certain details about characters (fill out character sheets, etc), items, places, and the expected emotional journey of the characters. I say 'expected' because the characters sometimes change their minds mid-story.
Then comes the reading.
Yes the reading. Those details on the chart turn into sparks that make me want to read up on items or places (view pictures, read personal accounts of being there) or psychology (quirks/patterns/etc). This is not just to reinforce my plot points. There's inspiration in those readings, if you want to find it.
I might write a scene or two here and there, but I generally have a well-rendered picture in my head before I really delve into the story.
Now, I'm bound for World Fantasy Convention in Columbus Ohio. Hope to see you there!