lookingforoctober: (Default)
2017-03-26 03:39 pm
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(no subject)

I seem to find it easier to construct a story around a character arc than around a plot. Structurally, I just seem to be able to hold on to that better.

But it's hard to retrofit a character arc into a plotty story, if it's not obvious already from the plot...

So I'm not convinced the answer is to make everything into character arcs instead of plot (since I do want to write plotty stories), but it's still a thought.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2017-02-28 07:10 pm
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My Process, Part One: Simple Outline

Written last year:

At a very basic level, the way I work (with a process or without) is extremely simple: come up with stuff that goes into the story, try to organize it. Repeat.

(I think I got to this point after following various writing advice about how it's important to turn off your internal editor when you write, just get it down, etc. etc.. I seem to have gotten pretty good at that, at the cost of... well, when I'm really going, ideas bounce around in no order or organization at all. I suspect that if I were a bit more tolerant of stream-of-consciousness in organization (i.e. just go with the flow, jumping from one related idea to the next), I might be a bit more of a Robin McKinley type of writer. If I had a bit more idea of where I was going when I started, I might be a Rumer Godden type. As it is, I guess I'm...a me type writer :) )

Anyway, generation and organization generally, for me, happen at different times. (It's actually really hard for me to come up with ideas and then organize them on the same day. I have a theory that I need sleep in between, but I haven't really tested that. Early morning and late evening might work just as well.)

So technically, the very first step of the process is to have an idea. (A generation step.) But since I have more ideas than I have time, and keep coming up with more, in my process, having some kind of basic idea -- pretty much taken for granted. (In January [2016], I went through all my old ideas and pulled out the ones that are 1) original 2) could probably be written as short stories and not novels 3) were already fairly well developed and 4) I still liked, hoping to narrow it down to about a dozen that I could try to write this year, one a month. I found 35 that I really liked, and have since added another idea to the list.

[June 2016: Hmm, that idea about trying to write a short story a month...would have been a good idea were it not that I seem to have a limit of two things that I'm working on for any amount of time. I've been alternating working on two long projects all year, and the short stories just couldn't inspire me enough to actually fight their way into my brain, and I guess I just wasn't motivated enough to fight for them. Hmm.

It might have helped if my criteria for picking stories to write had had a bit more to do with being truly excited about them, rather than well, this idea is the shortest and so should be easiest to finish. Though really, I like all my ideas, so I'm not sure how much difference that would make.]

My ideas usually start with character (or a relationship, by which I don't usually mean a romantic relationship), a world (sometimes sketchy, but I usually have an idea about science fiction or fantasy, modern or future or past, technology/magic level, things like that), and some kind of idea about what the whole thing is about. These are usually pretty fused together, the about part usually has something to do with the character and the world, etc.

So given that, the first step of the process is to take the idea about what's going on and try to make it more story-shaped. Usually the idea is more like...there are these forces that are opposed to each other, either internal or external (i.e. maybe the character is divided against themself, maybe they are opposed to something that's happening in the world) but the story has to move from a beginning to an ending.

And now:

It's funny, I had forgotten about how last year I was trying to write original short stories. This year, I'm thinking about trying to write more short fanfic, and I've put one of my large projects on hold, which makes room for shorter projects, because it's still true about two things at a time. ...though actually, I can sometimes squeeze in a long project and two short projects so long as the short projects are in different stages of development.

Anyway, I thought I'd written much more than that last year, but at that point it quit being writing and turned into semi-random notes, which is disappointing. I thought I wrote about how to create a two-level outline (which was the first step in my theoretical process) and yet that isn't here.

I also notice that I talk about generation of ideas and organization of ideas but not about winnowing of ideas, which is totally typical, and one reason that I tend to write long, no doubt.

Anyway, the idea of the two level outline was to start with a very general pattern (I liked motivation - reaction as a pattern because it's very simple and very general and can encompass a lot of different things while feeling true to how things generally work) and use that pattern at the top level either once or twice.

(And then I tended to add another thing on to the ending, which I thought of as synthesis, because otherwise the story didn't have a satisfactory ending. So the pattern was either motivation - reaction - synthesis or motivation - reaction - motivation - reaction - synthesis.)

(I also played around with the idea of using different structures as the basis for repetition. For example, there's the aaba pattern, which I think might make a good pattern for something that's more thematic rather than plotty.)

And then the idea was to break out each section into smaller motivation - reaction sections (or whatever pattern is being used). Usually two repetitions of the complete pattern. (This did end up being ... really structured, but I figured that would come out when I started writing and things took more room or less.)

I believe at the time I had the idea that when I did this, I would end up with something like chapters as the lowest level of this outline. I then had another pass where I went through and came up with scenes... And then I was supposed to write the scenes and then be done. Ish.

What actually happened last year as I attempted to implement this process was that instead of working my way through by using the results of the previous step as they stood in order to produce something with more detail but basically the same plot, I had to redo every step along the way every time I went through because the previous ideas I had weren't good enough.

Which was a lot of work and took a lot of time, but I did end up with a very detailed scene level outline. And then before I got very far into the writing part of it, I realized that I was running long, and did several things to try to fix that (one of which ended up being changing the antagonist, which changed the shape of the story a lot, though not necessarily all of the events), which brings me to now.

So the question is, do I still believe in this process, and I guess the answer is both yes and no.

First of all, I don't think any process is going to eliminate the "better idea as I work on it" problem, if you want to call it a problem. Sure, it would be nice if I could come up with the best idea from the first, but as things develop, new possibilities come into sight and if they're better, then that's a good thing and not a flaw in the process.

Re: outlining the plot via fractal patterns of motivation and reaction, I think that was something that I needed to do because I wasn't very good at plot. As a crutch, it did let me come up with a plot that I could work with and then come up with something better, so that's probably worth remembering for instances when I'm stuck.

But overall, I think it was a bit too structured, and also it led me to try to include things that weren't exactly part of the story. That is, it encouraged me to think linearly rather than holistically, and I'm sure there are writers who write that way, but it turns out that's not my ideal.

(I also tried to fill in a certain amount of stuff into each section so that the pattern would repeat the way I was expecting, which was probably also a problem because some of that stuff wasn't important enough to deserve the space I was giving it.)

I think this process also encourages writing long, because there's nothing in there about how to figure out what belongs in the story.

Although in my defense, a big part of the idea was to come up with everything that happens, and then make each event either big or small in terms of the actual words it took, either foreground or background, depending on the needs of the story. It turned out, though, that I'd rather keep some ideas for the next book rather than make them small and put them into the background just because they don't fit this book.

I also have doubts about thinking of everything as motivation - reaction. Turning points might be a more useful way of thinking about most of the big events that happen in the book.

(In a way, motivation - reaction and turning points are the same thing. The moment, or the space that happens between a motivation and a reaction could be thought of as a turning point. I.e. you start with a situation where something is wrong or imperfect (motivation for a character), and at some point (maybe things get worse, maybe the character is just fed up) the character can't stand it and decides (turning point) that they have to do something, or change what they've been doing because of the situation (reaction).

But I'm not sure if I really think of turning points as being completely character based in the way this suggests. Sometimes turning points are about the world changing (and the characters reacting, true). In fact, turning points are not just the character or just the world, it's the whole story turning in a new direction, and having potentially a new focus (though each section's focus is, of course, related to the overall story focus)...

Which is something that motivation - reaction, which is very much about character rather than story overall, doesn't quite get to.)

There are also a couple of things about this process that are still useful to me. First of all, I don't think the first pass of outlining should try to capture the whole story. I think the first pass should try to capture something simple and basic about the story, which is what this was also trying to do.

Also, I forgot to mention that every time I described something when outlining (an act, a chapter, a scene) I used a certain structure. I would try to come up with three things: from, through, and to. This captures the idea that in every piece of the story, something needs to change.

This is probably the most important thing about plot -- plot is when something changes, and it was definitely a good habit to foster, thinking about the story on every level in terms of change.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2017-02-16 11:44 pm
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My Process: Re-introduction one year later

I started writing about my process about a year ago (and have been telling people I was going to write about it in more detail ever since)...

But meanwhile, it's been a year, and during that time I've been writing, working on various projects, and my way of thinking about writing has definitely changed, though I'm not entirely sure just how much. So instead of just writing about "my process", I'm going to take a look at what I wrote about it last year (and never completed), and at what I've done in the year since then, and see how much of the theory and ideas I had still makes sense to me, and whether I have any better ideas based on what I've been doing for the last year.

I think it might turn out that the process I came up with and was working from last year is going to turn out to be too heavy weight. In my first post about process, I talked about trying to make a process that made each step easier, like switchbacks when going up a mountain. It takes longer, but it's a steady progression of things that are completely do-able.

Now, looking back, I wonder just how much my year-ago idea of "easy" is going to map to "useful" and how much it's going to map to "but way too much work". (Which is, nevertheless, far better than "produces stuff that can't be used", just to note.)

I've noticed that no matter what kind of process I use, there are certain stages to writing.

There's a generating ideas stage (and this is something that long, long ago, before I started thinking about having a process at all, I used to do entirely in my head...which is nice but you can only write something fairly short that way. About 3,000 words, give or take, which is about how long chapters tend to be when I write them. I don't think that's a coincidence).

And there's a sorting and winnowing stage.

Obviously, this is not unique to my process, everyone has to do these things when writing, whether in their head or on a page. I think that differences in writing processes have a lot to do with how long a writer spends doing one before doing the other. (As well as what kind of ideas come first, i.e. plot first, characters first, etc.)

For example, NaNoWriMo-style writing says "generate ideas first, don't sort and winnow at all until you have a complete draft". NaNoWriMo-style writing has the virtue of being very easy to generate a first draft, and the disadvantage that you might end up with something that's practically impossible to edit, because it wasn't put together with the idea of editing in mind. And if you notice what a problem you're setting up for yourself, you might end up not being happy doing NaNoWriMo, whether you "win" or not. (The one time I tried it, years ago, I ended up with a mess that I haven't dared to go back to look at since, though I think there are some good ideas in it ... somewhere.)

On the opposite extreme, there's writer's block, which I think is basically a situation where a writer can't generate any ideas because they're pre-winnowing as they come up with ideas in their head and perfection hasn't occurred yet, so they refuse to commit to putting anything down. (At least, I think this is one variety of writer's block. There may be others.)

But in between the extremes, there are a lot of ways to have a cycle of brainstorming followed by structuring/winnowing of material. I find that the important thing for me is not to create too much of a backlog of unstructured stuff that needs to be sorted, because I can only hold so much in my head (and I only have so much patience for structuring, which I find hard).

On the other hand, I need to have a certain amount of material to work with when I sit down to put something together (a draft of a scene or a draft of an outline, it works fairly similarly), because otherwise I will probably end up stuck (and then I just have to go back to brainstorming to fill in the holes).

So my ideal process breaks things into chunks that are not too much bigger than what I can hold in my head. I've also found that I work better if I write down all my brainstorming and then extract the good ideas from it, instead of trying to do the winnowing in my head and only write down good ideas. My head is just not big enough to hold it all simultaneously, and a "good idea" depends on context and the surrounding ideas. Some of my favorite ideas just haven't fit the story, and that's sad, but it's also impossible to see until I have all the ideas written down and can see what doesn't belong.

(In a way, it's wasteful, but it seems to be inevitable, at least for now, and at least with stories that are long or that require research. I think I consider story to be what you have when you take away everything that's not story...but this can't be seen without generating some amount of both story and not-story.)

My old process covered some of this, but it also had some ideas that I don't think scale -- like writing each pass from beginning to end. This was great in the early stages, but for big projects I ended up mired in details and unable to see the big picture as I got further and further down into the the story. (I failed to take into account just how much the big picture has to change as the story develops, it doesn't actually develop totally top down even if that's the plan.)

I have some ideas about expanding from the early stages of a large project via subplot instead of via expanding each section into more and more detail, which I will try to talk about in later posts.

I also want to think about and explore the idea of what order to do things in, not just subplots but also things like character and structure and also storytelling things like tension...

I'm also not so sure about the idea of always working from start to finish. On the one hand, you do have to work in some order and start to finish is the really obvious way to do this. On the other hand, I seem to tend toward tangents when moving from beginning to end (though that might be because my endings so far haven't been strong enough to be a sufficient story-magnet). But I also really prefer to see a story as a whole rather than taking it on linearly, so a process that always goes through the story from beginning to end might not fit me that well? It's something to think about.

I also need to think more about how to deal with being wrong. Though perhaps "wrong" is the wrong word... But it always happens, at some point I realize that I've done something that doesn't work and needs to be changed. Not (always) because there's something wrong with it, but just because it doesn't fit...

When this happens, I generally have a very strong "I can fix that" instinct that kicks in the instant I realize that something is not working...but it might be worth stepping back and developing some ideas about what I want to do when I realized that something isn't working to avoid just going with the first fix that occurs to me.

I mean, if you have a process, but then you bypass the process every time something triggers your "wrong" "must fix now" instinct, then in some ways you don't have a process. I don't think there's any way to avoid being wrong every now and then, but maybe I need some things to always think about to evaluate potential fixes?

Focus and size is another problem that...I probably need tons more experience before tackling. It would probably help to have satisfactorily finished one or two novels. The problem is that (despite having read thousands of novels) I have no idea how to make sure I have a novel-sized idea when I decide to write a novel. (The problem is probably more that I don't know what size my novels will be. I'm developing my own ideas about what I want my novels to be about, which is not exactly the same as anyone else, so I guess I won't know what my novels are like until I finish one. Or two, for comparison purposes.)

Anyway. Next post will be looking at what I'd written about my old process and thinking about whether I think it does the things a process needs to do, and whether it does them in efficiently. Or at least that's the plan. Hopefully this year I'll get to a little more of this than I did last year :)
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2016-10-20 01:50 am
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Weird thing to get attached to

The idea of the outline was always to move past the outline at some point, and I've finally gotten to that point and now it turns out that although I started with characters, I have at this point become weirdly attached to the detached god-level view of this story, so much that I'm actually reluctant to move down into an actual character pov.

(I've mostly decided on writing in third limited, but there's an outside chance that I'll reconsider in favor of first at some later point, and have to switch.)

Symptoms include having to write everything that seems important down from an impartial perspective so that I know, off in notes somewhere, even if I'm also putting the exact same information into the actual text of the story from a character pov, because the characters aren't seeing the whole picture. Which is sort of the whole point of characters, isn't it?

Also, tendency toward infodumps, which is a bit unfortunate, I suppose, but surely everyone will be interested in endless worldbuilding details?

Ah well, this is not the pass that's supposed to be readable anyway, that's the next one. (My process contains many passes through the whole story.)
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2016-04-01 05:19 pm
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Process: Stuff that isn't plot

I'm still planning on writing about my more general process step by step, but I've been...I don't know if busy is quite the right word, but I've been distracted at least, and somehow have managed to get behind on almost everything. (I'm not sure how that works, you'd think that there would be something that has been keeping me busy/distracted and which I'm therefore not behind on, but...)

Anyway. Today I was thinking about writing, and it occurred to me that while I feel like I have a fairly good process in terms of plot, and in terms of being able to organize my plot according to a structure that I'm happy with, I have basically no process/structure to guide me when it comes to things like worldbuilding and characterization -- and yes, this is partly by design, because I have confidence in my ability to do them, and I was more worried about plot...

But looking at my current project, I'm pretty very disorganized about worldbuilding especially. I think of something and try to stick it into my notes somewhere, and then... what? It sits there, and I can't find it when I need it. And yeah, I can always come up with more, but it would be more efficient not to, wouldn't it? And to be able to find the stuff that I know I already came up with?

So in the hopes of coming up with a better filing system for non-plot story notes, I'm going to list out the current ad hoc structure and what it's good for.

Under "Ideas!", I have folders for books 2 and 3 (into which I drop thoughts with absolutely no attempt at organization because I'm not writing books 2 and 3 right now), subplots, mode, theme, inspiration, characters, setting, timeline, structure, round holes, square pegs, and todo.

Of these, todo is meant for things that I mean to do in the very near future, and is hardly worth comment, structure has one file with one sentence in it, so I guess it didn't need a whole folder, timeline is really out of date and mostly contains stuff that probably ought to be moved to square pegs (which I will just go do right now...) and mode is something that I haven't developed a lot yet but is a really good idea for later development.

So that leaves subplots, theme, inspiration, characters, setting, and round holes and square pegs.

You would think than subplot would be plot-related, but it's quite possible that it's misnamed... It's more raw material for subplots than actual plotty material itself. Not incidents or events so much as forces that are going to cause incidents and events. The most useful thing in the subplot folder is exploration of the goals of various actors in the system that is the world I'm creating. And goals grow into actions...

Related to subplots (actually, generated from the subplots folder, along with a few other sources), square pegs are things that I want to put into the plot but don't know where yet, and round holes are places in the outline that are vague and need details. I've merged the round holes and square pegs, but I'm not totally happy with the results of that, I'm also working on a world-level outline which should clarify some of the high level world-changing stuff that the plot needs to hang on (but this world-level outline is a big sheet of paper with lots of post-its, so it doesn't have a folder anywhere).

So this stuff, the goal is to eventually merge it into the outline, so I guess that's okay. It's not really structured properly now, but it should be eventually.

(There is a question though -- when I'm finished integrating this into the outline, what do I do with the raw material? Does it get sorted off somewhere as irrelevant and used up, or do I need to re-file it somewhere so that I can continue to use it?

The subplot material has a lot of good character stuff, for example, lots of information about various organizations, etc. etc. I think it needs to stick around for reference. The other stuff can probably be deleted once I get it into the real outline.)

Which leaves theme, inspiration, characters, and setting.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with the theme stuff.

Inspiration is notes from stuff I've come across in various research or just my normal reading that I think will be useful for generating ideas. It's really a pre-idea stage.

Characters and setting are ideas that are actually not plot-related. Funny how I thought the whole ideas folder was not plot-related, but most of it was.

I guess the truth is that plot can be made out of anything, but... there's also the fact that things can be present without being plot (I am defining plot here as being characterized by action or change). So some of the characterization might end up turned into plot, but not all of it. Some of it will be description or come out in conversations or moments, not in big actions that change everything. Some of the settings will exist without changing. Etc.

So I guess in my mind, the big distinction in the ideas folder is how close the idea is to being incorporated into the story. I have inspiration, which is pretty far from being ready to go into the story (I'd think of it more as "questions to ponder"), I have what I'm going to call "being", characters and setting, more static than dynamic, more summary than specific, and is not really supposed to go into the story until later, when I'm actually writing scenes and doing details, not just big picture plot stuff. When I can make "Char X is like such and such" into something that informs a moment in time.

And then I have "doing", actual events or things that are meant to become events, stuff that's pre-plot, stuff that's going to (hopefully) get incorporated into the outline.

Well, that was interesting. Now I guess I can go reorganize my ideas folder according to this structure, and see if that makes me feel more organized.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2016-03-16 06:44 pm
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Outlining

I think I'm moving away from the view that outlining is for the purpose of making sure it's possible to get to the end, and toward the view that outlining is for the purpose of making sure that the structure the rest of the writing is going to depend on, the core of the story is...I don't know that beautiful is quite the right word. Solid? Elegant? Immaculate?

Either that or my perfectionist tendencies are running away with me.

(But seriously, a flaw in the premise, or a flaw in the outline, maybe you can fix it later -- if you are not a seriously lazy person like me who will resent having to make changes later on -- but there is always the chance that it will be a flaw forever.)
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2016-02-10 09:06 pm
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My Process: needed

Sometimes when I'm outlining (or writing) I come across something that I don't know. Usually I know something about what's needed, but not everything. And usually, stopping to figure it out would be counter-productive because ... well, because I could come up with an answer, but the right answer probably ought to grow out of some other part of the story than the one I'm currently working on.

Call them holes. They probably have a shape (the function they need to play in the current section, a few characteristics of whatever fits there, but not a full definition). But lots of things might fit, one way or another, and I don't know what the best thing is.

If I try to hold it in my head, I'll probably forget (I have a terrible memory over the course of years and books worth of stuff).

So I need some way to capture holes, so that I remember to try to fill them when I'm writing other sections.

(I suppose I could just make a list, instead of trying to remember, and see if that helps. To go with the list of stuff that probably ought to go somewhere but I'm not sure where. Or maybe I could tag scenes as having holes...the list is probably easier to look at and muse about, though.)
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2016-02-01 03:06 pm
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My Process: Introduction

I've been meaning to write about my process for quite a while now. Originally, I was going to just write one post about my writing process and be done with it. But the more I put it off, the more I realized that maybe this was something that wouldn't fit into only one post...because the more stuff I thought of that I wanted to say about each step of the process.

So then I was going to write a post about the first stage of outlining... But somehow I never did, and eventually I realized it was because I had a lot to say about the process of creating a process before I moved on to actually talking about my specific process.

So this is that very meta post.

The process I'm going to be talking about is something that's been developing for a while; I suppose I really started thinking about some aspect of it two Yuletides ago (2014 -- Yuletide is the one time when I tend to be moderately ambitious as well as actually finishing that moderately ambitious story, so I tend to learn a lot from Yuletide). Two Yuletides ago was when I realized one of the main aspects of my process as it has developed: get through to the end, and then worry about the rest (instead of making each part perfect as I write them), because it's more important to have everything there than to have everything perfect. I did it because I just really wanted to finish the whole story I had in my head, but after Yuletide, I looked at what I'd done and decided it was good.

Finishing has always been a struggle for me, but it turned out that a really useful thing that process could do for me is to make finishing seem possible. So now one of my goals in having a process is that I always want the path from where I am to a finished product to be fairly obvious (even if I don't end up following the path I think I see, even if things turn out differently than expected as I go along, as is usually the case). Process helps me keep writing and not get discouraged.

I've added more to the process over the course of last year, working toward a better understanding of story structure, and it all came together during Yuletide 2015, and the process I'm using now (I'm in the middle of outlining a novel) got its first test-drive then. I don't think it's final yet, so even though I'm planning on writing about "my process", really all I want is to get down some of the things that I've done so that I don't forget what worked, so I can start to think about why it might have worked (and if there's anything that might work better), and whether I might be leaving anything obvious out that really ought to be part of my process.

I have a few other goals when it comes to process. I've already talked about making getting to the end seem possible. Another goal is that I want to have a process that will work for things of any size. Maybe I can get through shorter things more quickly, but I don't want to have to rearrange the whole process just because I'm writing a short story, or a six part monster of a story. Story is story.

And of course (I think this is the point of having a process at all) I want to keep using the same process over and over again, and make it better, so that writing becomes easier and easier because I know what I'm doing and what actually works for me. I've done this in the past on an ad hoc basis, but I want to pay more attention to what works and what doesn't necessarily work.

The final goal I have for my process is that I want to make each step of the process seem easy. (This is sort of weird to me, I used to be far more into doing things that are difficult... I liked being heroic and conquering the impossible tasks. I don't seem to like it as much any more, probably because... well, most of the things that I want to write are really long, and one can only be heroic and go full speed ahead for so long. So I'm going more for a tortoise-type process, and a confidence that eventually I'll get there :) ) So my process is full of baby steps.

However, having said that, I also like complexity, so there are places where my process embraces complexity in a way that I wouldn't necessarily expect to be appealing to anyone but me. But hey, this is my very personal process, which I'm developing around my strengths and weakness and preferences and goals. When I call it "my process", I really mean it. I'd be surprised if it worked for anyone but me, because it's got a lot of steps to cover things I find difficult (structure, plot, I need to add something for tension) and totally ignores things that I don't feel I need the support for (character, worldbuilding).

So that's what I want out of a process in general. Specifically, these are some of the approaches I'm using to meet these goals:

1) Quick passes and lots of cycling through the story. I've quit calling them drafts because draft seems so much more heavy-weight than what I do. This is not, of course, unique, it's sort of like the idea behind something like NaNoWriMo. Do it fast, then take what you have and do it again. This keeps me from getting stuck on any one idea or problem, and it lets me keep a more holistic view of the story.

It also lets me change what needs to changed on each pass without getting annoyed, because I haven't usually put too much work into the idea that needs to be changed.

Things do seem to change quite a bit between passes (and this is something that used to happen to me when I was more perfectionist in early drafts too, and I remember that eventually I just got totally sick of revising and gave up even though I could see how to fix something, I didn't want to do it). So the quicker I make each pass, the more light-weight the early writing, the better things seem to work for me.

2) I generally start off with very abstract ideas, so my process moves from abstract to specific.

In a lot of ways, my ideas move from ideas about forces and oppositions and dynamics and relationships to (eventually) specific events and telling details. The details come last, but that's not because I don't think of them at every stage, it's just... they might not be the right details, they might not all fit together, they might not tell a story unless I pay attention to the story and then come up with the details that fit.

There's no guarantee that I can come up with a story if I start with details, but starting with something abstract and drilling down does seem to result in a story. And I can always come up with more details, so even though I might lose some cool details, well, that is the price that has to be paid sometimes.

3) My process is based on the idea of fractals. (I may have gotten the basic idea from the Snowflake Method, but that one doesn't work for me at all.) The idea of fractals is that you repeat the same pattern at different scales, so however much you zoom in or out, you keep seeing the same pattern. Or, in other words, you start with a certain pattern, and then you fill in each section of that pattern with smaller versions of the same pattern... (This is hard to explain, here have a video by Vi Hart.)

The pattern that I use is motivation and reaction. It's motivation and reaction all the way down, at every scale. I think this makes sense -- it makes just as much sense to look at the second half of the book as a reaction to the first half of the book as it makes to write a couple of paragraphs containing a character's motivation followed by a character's reaction.

(Also, so long as I'm talking about reactions, another link to an interesting post that I happened to run across as I was writing this. Not exactly the same kind of reaction, but interesting!)

4) I suspect that my process is more complicated than it needs to be, and even though I like complicated, perhaps I will be able to streamline it as I grow more practiced at some of these things. Perhaps writing about my process will help with that :) I suppose only time will tell.