I collect my random thoughts after I'm done for the day. I have notebooks where I jot down what's floating through my head. I also pay attention to what I see, and to what's happening in the world at large. All of that may appear in the next day's writing or none of it might.
I think about it for days and just sit down and bang it out. I correct and innovate as I go along.
I'm lucky if I get my teeth brushed in the mornings before I start writing. I suppose coffee is the only prerequisite. I've written my column every Monday for almost fifteen years, so it's a well-worked muscle. There's not much prep necessary. I really just like to bring a fresh head to the process of any writing and seem to do my best work spontaneously.
When an idea for a story enters my mind, the first thing I do is write down a few sentences describing it. I tend to devote a notebook to one to three separate stories.
I spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks creating characters and jotting down plot ideas.
To design characters, I simply go to a public place, and observe the various types of people walking around. I study these people for a few moments, sometimes even making a small sketch to remember a favorite detail.
As far as plot goes, I try not to create a completely rigid system. I leave plenty of room for new ideas to present themselves.
I usually use outlines. I like to plan out an entire story before writing it. I can write it as it comes to me, but I feel like it comes out better if it's outlined first.
Reviews and articles have kind of a natural flow. You just write whatever comes to you. I've gotten to the point now where most of my stuff has a basic structure, so I try to stick to that.
I used to have a glass of coffee before writing. Seriously, I can't seem to think of anything good to write without it. Although now it's more about planning and daydreaming. Since writing was not the only thing I do, so I don't want to rush it. I really took my time to produce one single story.
I play some soft music and try to have a clear mind and I just start writing, and I never check what I wrote until I am finished. Then I do the spell check and go over each line, and this takes more work than just writing what is on your mind.
I mostly listen to music or go for a walk before I get ideas to write. Sometimes I can't sleep because I think about what I am to write next.
My process is really the process of how I live my life. I absorb inspiration from almost everything, and let the outside world stimulate my inside world where my creative resources as a writer spin and gestate, until I give birth to my poems, short stories, essays, sketches, etc. In particular, a certain word, phrase, or declarative sentence (aphorism or epigram) will turn itself around in my brain pan for awhile, gaining word-strength or meaning until it comes out as the nucleus or main part of such works. I can go hours, days, weeks or months or longer between capturing a "thought-form" in my web, and delivering a reflection upon it.
I am also pretty good at automatic writing or "creativity on demand", so rarely suffer from writer's block, or "overthinking" as a writer. I let what wants to come, come. As Rimbaud said, "I have something in me which must come out."
I don't think much about writing. If it's there, it's there. If it isn't, well, sometimes the words just don't come. I don't try to come up with ideas for stories or find the words. The words find me from within myself and I let them out to play. I don't do rough drafts. I sit. I write. Often I'll wake up with a story brewing in my head. Once I begin to type, it just naturally flows. I feel rather blessed in this way. I feel quite comfortable in my skin behind the keyboard or wielding a pen.
My creative process can't be forced. When I have something in my mind to write, I need to sit down and write it right then. I don't do outlines or graphs or anything like that. I just write until it feels like it's done. Then I go back and edit it like crazy.
I always have to make sure that there is nothing else to do. If I have something nagging in the back of my mind to do, I will never be able to write freely.
I always have to sharpen my pencils, re-read what I wrote last, and have a drink handy.
I always make sure I`m comfortable, and have a dictionary and thesaurus right beside me.
Most of my creative process is done first in the mind by brainstorming and toying around with crazy ideas. Everyday "what ifs" spark most of my creativity, combined with an extensive history of video games. Before I write, I have to imagine a scene played out. Most of my writing deals with fight scenes or lots of intense action, and I cannot start putting words down until it is choreographed from start to finish in my head.
My fiction work tends to be the product of environment, as I'm easily inspired by other people, places, and random thoughts.
I'm fortunate that I can work at home. Before I sit down, I'm often pacing, doing household chores and wondering what my characters would do or say if he or she were doing the same thing. My people are usually ordinary real-time folks, so this method works well for me. If I get stuck, I jump up and do something.