We discussed one WIP (not quite finished the critique yet – there was a lot of things to discuss this month), and one completed short piece that had previously been critiqued. How people critique is totally unique (not only to each person, but also to each group). Some of the critique comments we agreed with, some (many) we did not. It is appropriate to comment on the work as it is understood by the reader, but some comments seem to come from (not only) left field, but from a lack of understanding of the meaning of critique (and it’s probably true that other people/groups would say the same about us. However, we try very hard to concentrate on the issues at stake for the story, and we discuss the offered piece as an item separate from the author (story is all). I hope we continue to do this (or even get better).
We also discussed how people ‘start’ their stories; some pantsers don’t even think about a plan and write from moment to moment in the depth of the story, but some people do plan.
So what is a plan? Well, I think a plan is something that is also unique to each writer. I, personally, write up a rough chronological ‘discussion’ from beginning to end (yes, I like to know how it ends), and then draw up the characters associated with this discussion (unless they are already alive and kicking and were instrumental in getting the first plan onto paper); then a slightly more detailed outline, which finds holes and gaps, usually finds more people, and adds gusto and power (read: conflict) to the story. This is also where the story can make some of its own rules (one character didn’t like her name, so she changed it).
Once the main outline is relatively complete, I like to do a chapter by chapter, and after that, a scene by scene in each chapter. This is the time when arcs must marry up, clash appropriately, and grip the story line.
Then I build the world – maps, languages, magic, religion, money, etc.
Then I write the first draft – beginning to end, no editing during this phase.
Then it goes to sleep for a while (the length of this while depends on other projects). When it comes back out the editing process begins, and goes on, and on, and on. I like to edit for particular things in each run-through, so I can focus clearly on only that thing (ie dialogue).
When I think it’s ready, it goes out. And that’s how I plan. Tell us how you do it.