That’s a cliché and I think it’s an unfair one. Everyone needs different amounts of information before they begin and I don’t judge. Anyway, as you can probably tell this months WriYe blog topic is all about planning.
Explain your planning process. Do you write a detailed outline or are you more of a bare bones only writer?
Ok I start off with an idea. This could be a scene, a character, a general concept, a world detail – something. I then do a lot of brainstorming, which is basically free typing where I write down everything that comes to mind as I think about the idea. I ask myself questions and try and reason out the answers. I do this until I have answered all the questions. This results in a very long and messy document.
So I then need to pull out all the relevant information and put it into various documents. I’ll have a world building details file. I’ll have a character detail file etc. Then I’ll have the explaining the plot file where I edit the rambles and put it all in order, but it’s still very much long paragraphs. So I’ll create another separate file and make up bullet points for each scene described, so there’s a brief list for reference and not just the long descriptive document.
Ultimately I guess that makes me a detailed outline person – at least when it comes to novels. I don’t tend to go that far with fanfic. I’ll reason the story out and sometimes write up scene lists but I don’t do a scene-by-scene outline, and I’ll add as I go with what feels right and sometimes straight up change things. I’m a bit less flexible with the novel because I plan it more in-depth.
Are you happy with the way you plan currently?
I guess? Sometimes I think maybe I over-plan when it comes to novels and it sort of sucks all the life out of it. Essentially I’m just fleshing out the story, in many ways I’ve already written it. That doesn’t mean I’ve written it sensibly though. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of process I put my plan through, in an attempt to check that I’ve not been dumb – I’ve invariably been stupid somewhere and something doesn’t make sense.
End of 2019 I made a ton of notes on structure and applied them to the outline of the novel I should be writing at the moment (it’s not going so well). As I’ve not finished the draft yet, and thus haven’t attacked it in revision, I don’t know whether that has helped or not.
To be honest I’m kinda set in my ways. I’ve been planning by brainstorming and then pulling it into an outline for well over a decade now, possibly closer to two. It’s just how my brain works. Am I happy with it? I don’t know. I think so but at the same time I’m not happy with the novels I write from it, but then would those novels be any better if I planned another way? I don’t know.
Are there things you would like to try that are different or new to you?
Yes. I don’t do details very well. I need to think more deeply about my world building, and then plan/record those details in an easily referenced document. With the novel I’m currently writing I was struggling to get started and so a friend tried asking me questions, to sort of get my head ‘into the scene’. I didn’t know most of the answers because I couldn’t remember if I’d decided about these details before, or what I’d put if I had. I struggle with description at the best of times and not thinking about the details until revision hurts me.