Do I do a treatment first? No. Do I work out a beat outline? Not really. Map out character motivations and arcs and the rest of it? Hmmm, I wouldn’t go that far.
I tend to do a lot of research to get a sense of context and to ground the story in reality. Then I kind of let loose. Even for a short story.
If you could see my writing space you’d be shocked. There’s paper everywhere. A4 sheets of paper (which I like to print out in US letter format so there’s room to add notes and ideas). Index cards with dubious sketches on them. Lists of Kafka’s favorite words. Print outs of bits and pieces. Odds and ends everywhere.
All this stuff gets crammed into a notes text file which is printed out with typos and everything. On the basis that there are no typos, just clues. (Damn, 47 pages in an eensy weensy font size. Around 6pt if you’re counting, so more words can fit on the page.)
Each idea, notion, description, dialogue, rejoinder, afterthought, whatever, has its own line. After they’re printed out, each line is sliced out and laid out on a large table. Then I slide them all over the place until they start to make sense. (Sort of like a giant jigsaw puzzle of meaning.)
The lines are rearranged and rearranged and rearranged again until they start to flow into a semblance of story with a beginning, middle and end. Lined up from top to bottom and Scotch taped into position.
Yes, and then I start writing.