designing a writers’ site– what would you like to see?

So, as I progress through the coding of my web project, I’m left with the knowledge that I’m running out of my original design sketches and HTML. In fact, I’m coding pages’ content in PHP and having nowhere to put the data. Now I’m reduced to making horrible looking bullet lists.

I’ve weighed the ‘chicken or egg’ question of the web development world quite a bit lately, and it seems to me that design has to come before coding. I want to know how a user will need a site to work before I build the guts.

So. I need to figure out a design.

More importantly, what sort of look and feel would you guys picture on a writing site? I don’t want to go glossy-professional. I don’t want to commit to a big theme exactly, since we’re going to look for writers of all genres. There should be easy navigation and lots of space for reading and writing in. And since it’s a critique site, people will be looking at it for long periods of time.

So. How formal/informal? Any sort of style? Very graphical interfaces? Sparse?

Any input, thoughts, or ideas would be awesome!

50%!

As of last night, I reached 47,533 words. 50% of my projected length. Woot!

That said, I had an idea that again deviates from my intended storyline, but sounded very good last night. This morning I remembered the idea, and promptly felt sick. Oh, it works. But it’s dark, even for me.

This has happened before. I lay down to sleep and my mind races. I see dialog, chapter layouts, characters dancing in my head as I lay there, and when I’ve been especially productive it can last for hours. But when I wake, I realize that these 2-a.m. thoughts are always rock-lodged-in-your-gut disturbing or melodramatic.

Anyone else think their judgment is skewed by early hours? Or is it just me?