1. Fiona
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    Fiona Member

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    Do you plan your novels?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Fiona, Jan 8, 2011.

    I just thought it would be interesting to see how people go about writing their novels here. Do you sit down and plan your novel, with chapter outlines and detailed guides? Or do you have a general idea and just let the book flow where it wants to go?

    I have never been one for mapping and planning. What I normally do is this: if I get an idea I like, I just get a general, fluid idea of where I want it to go in my head and then literally just begin writing.

    I know planning works very well for some, but for me I like to write and be surprised at where my characters and stories take me... I get so excited at times when I begin writing a chapter and find my story taking an unexpected twist.

    As for charcters though - I always need to keep notes on them.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    What is planning lol ?

    No I don't plan any of my writing, sometimes all I know is Queen gets kidnapped, or King gets assasinated. Have a main character to start with who is usually a rough stereotype and then write it.

    In my current work I was surprised right in the first sentence by a character I had assumed would be dead standing at the end of my MCs bed. Not only that he was hoping to get into the bed with him lol
     
  3. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    In On Writing, Stephen King says not to plan anything out, to just write and let it take its own form.
    It is quite rewarding when you're writing something you didn't even know you would write :]
     
  4. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    You have to plan. Stephen King sometimes plans and sometimes doesn't. He planned The Dead Zone, and it's arguably one of his better novels, because it works.

    People who don't plan, I assure you it shows in their writing. First you plan, then you free write the rough draft according to that outline, then you revise and edit. That's the way writing works.

    If a story works it's because it was planned--either on paper or in the writer's head, but it was planned.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I planned, my stories wouldn't be as good. My first draft is my plan. I then completely rewrite it from scratch often without ever looking at the first draft. I certainly wouldn't be able to produce the plots I do with a detailed outline.

    Personally think it would seriously hurt my character development if I planned. Downside is like when I produced the story for the story competition False Prophet and the prophecy ended up coming true lol or my current novel started off as light relief turned out to be darkest book I have ever written. I was 50K when I got the inspiration of how to turn my very YA element and my very adult element into a coherent story. I don't even plan the genre.
     
  6. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    I used to write with only minimal planning- beginning with little more than an opening and ending scene in mind. But I found I quickly became unfocused, and that my setting and supporting characters weren't nearly as well developed as I'd have liked. But on the plus side, it allowed me to practice developing characterization, and building stories around the characters.

    Now, I plan things out in more detail- notes about setting and quick biographies on any supporting characters the main characters may come across- even if it's something as simple as what they want, and how they'll react to the MCs. I also plan out the plot, scene by scene, making note of what I have to accomplish in that scene, where the characters are at the start and where they have to get to.

    I do think it's important to leave some room for improvisation though, so even though I know roughly where every scene is headed, there is some leeway from start to end. Planning is a good way to manage the pace of the story and prevent the plot from getting bogged down, but I also think it's important to leave some room for creativity when you're actually writing. Like with most things, it comes to down to trying different methods out and going with what works best for you.
     
  7. Florent150
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    Florent150 Member

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    I think it depends on the writer; I don't think there's a correct way to do go about it. Some people are inherently better if they just let themselves flow. I plan a lot, and I split up the creative process into small chunks and make them fit together. I decide how many locations I want for example (based on my intended story length and setting), then do some creative brainstorming playing with ideas of different location concepts and come up with a list of them and choose the ones I think will work best. Then I go to each one individually and create a storyline and some history and other note-side exposition until eventually everything's filled up. I do the same for characters and other major storyline areas. Usually once I've got most things down I work on making them gel by revising the story lines and making them affect each other in some way and link up a bit more.

    Then again, I usually write big event-driven epics. If I was writing something very current and character-driven and symbolic I might lay off the planning more, but when you're handling huge numbers of characters and locations, I need some organization and structured planning or things will just melt apart (things get forgotten, don't make sense etc)
     
  8. Fiona
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    Fiona Member

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    I did try planning a story once. I had a notebook filled with details and plots and what would happen. I even had a list of what event would happen by which chapter. It ended up a very uncreative process for me. That's just me, personally. I know it certainly can work for some writers - and I appreciate some people hate writing without thorough planning -but it stilted my flow.

    Of course I need an outline in my head - who my characters are, their biography, what events happen, the final outcome, but I try and be fluid instead of rigid. I find myself becoming more creative and excited by what I write that way.
     
  9. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    This is how it goes. Let's say I'm writing a story in which the 3 main characters are chased by zombies. So I'll start with something like,"Timothy, Will and Jack get chased by the undead and barricade a room to stop them." Then I'll start writing. After a while, I'll have a sudden inspiration and write something I hadn't planned, for example,"And then Timothy spottted a room with a crudely made metal door. A safehouse!" And then I'll get on a roll. "As they entered the safehouse, they noticed it already had residents. And the residents were not alive." And then they have to run again, from the zombies in the safehouse. Then I continue the process until I end the story.
     
  10. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    I only have a vagues mental plan for the book, but the character personalities and the changes they need to undergo are planned with more certainty.
     
  11. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think a while, usually on the drive home from work and an idea will arrive. Then I start putting the pieces together in my head (world/characters/events, etc.).

    I jot the information down in a spiral notebook for novels and usually make a file online for short stories. Why? Not sure. But I can carry a spiral in my briefcase at work and jot an idea when convenient. Short stories, buy their length and nature, require less planning. Plus, I write short fiction and articles to fill in the gaps when I'm not novel writing.

    Then I determine where the story should start. Where it should end, and some major events along the way (and I write them down--with bits of notes and dialogue or interesting bits/ideas). On paper it's generally less than 20 pages of notes, spread out with arrows and side comments.

    To illustrate a little more clearly about where the ideas come from for me, here's a section from an interview I had with Urban Fantasy Author Erica Hayes:

    Link to the interview is here if you're interested in further details: Author Interview: Terry W. Ervin II
     
  12. Rousel
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    Rousel Member

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    Im a fan of flow writing. i have a start and end game. the adventure to the end isnt written.
     
  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the same, I might be wrong but I have gotten the impression professinal writers (at least the ones i have read about in books about writing) do plan, because the story will be more structured and make more sense.
    I also think its easier to get "writers block" if you havent made at least general guidelines; major scenes planned beforehand.





    I do that too, I plan roughly but still leave some space for my characters to develope and handle the scene in their own way. Its not like im planning every line of dialogue before. I just think it makes MY writing more structured and i find the stories i write makes more sense since i started doing that.
    Maybe its easier doing the free flow-method with fantasy stories because "anything can happen", or am I wrong?
    I would also like to know how many of you PUBLISHED writers who use the planning and how many who use the free flow. and what kind of stories you write, that way we could individuate if its a matter of the kind of fiction you write or just personal.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have since starting writing met several that don't and NaNo is designed by writers that don't really plan.

    I find it a lot easier to avoid writers block by just simply writing and not caring about first draft quality. It allows me to pull apart my own work afterwards and craft it. We are all different but I would get bored with planning - for me it would remove the fun, joy and general I think this is great. That is what motivates me every day to plonk my backside down and write thousands of words.

    To OP have just had one of those scenes lol It was amazing to write I didn't know what was about to happen and then something massive has happened :) It is amazing. Has huge implications for the world around my story.
     
  15. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I normally plan my story first before writing it. This is my very first story by the way, so I don't know too much about writing. This is why I use the Snowflake Method first. But then it takes the fun out of writing the first draft of the story if I am so detailed about the plot. It makes it harder to find new ideas whenever I start the first draft of the novel. I'll probably end up writing the exact same thing from my detailed plan.

    For me, whenever I plan, I try to write a one sentence summary of what the story is about. For example, I write "A teenager attempts to find peace in his life long after he experienced pain in California," as the summary of the book, "Manifestation," and then write my characters. On the long run I might probably do part of the snowflake method and not the entire thing. It just make my final draft look silly that way.
     
  16. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I only plan the basic plot, Some chapters and the characters...
    Most of the time most things I write on a plan don't even happen or are changed completely.
     
  17. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Normally some kind of planning is involved.

    I have a general overview in my head or simply start off with an idea. From there, I often do some brainstorming, jotting down ideas, possible character names - anything really. I've never really done character bios though.

    Once I start writing something of length, I usually note down a very rough, loose outline of 'Chapter x - this will happen', so that I can keep track of the chronology of the story and see how it much 'width' it has i.e. if I have enough to sustain a novel, or if I need to introduce some more sub plots et al.
     
  18. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess it must be a lot of fun to sit down and just write out of pure imagination :) , i would like to too. when i tried to it came out so-so...I got a lot of writing done but in the end little of that was quality stuff i could use for the story. For me personally i think structuring a little works better. But everyone is different. I was just speaking out of my impression from the books i read. they always talk about the importance of planning...
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whatever works for you that is great. My first draft is almost unuseable usually. I mean it reads coherently enough, but there are so many changes to make that it is easier to completely rewrite. There is a lot of filler, basically I sit down with the mentality I am going to write at least 3000 words each day, doesn't matter if they are 3,000 good words as long as the story moves along.

    My first draft is always too much magic, sex, fighting, talking to dead people and I use a story fairy to zap my characters along when I am stuck.

    I am positively anal about the story not being patched and feeling seamless to read. So will delete thousands of words just to incorporate a single idea - for example I rewrote my first novel when I realised the falcon I was using would be better as a white bird and not a brown one. Rewriting allowed me to tailor the world and its descriptions to the white bird.
     
  20. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    EdwardG, I am going to virtually punch you.
    "You have to plan. This is the way writing works." Uggh...
     
  21. Clumsywordsmith
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    Clumsywordsmith Active Member

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    Limited planning allows for a more organic flow to the work -- too little, of course, can result in a somewhat unfocused or wandering story. It's all about the perfect balance that fits for the writer in question, and there's really no right answer. Some people must be able to lay out a firm plan, and then progress logically from point A to point B. Others work in the moment (and though I have no evidence to back the claim up, I would not be at all surprised if the vast majority of fictional writers tended toward this side of the spectrum).

    I am a highly intuitive sort of person, and I could never really say where or when an idea might strike me; I've found that my absolute best bet for creating a decent plot is by grasping at a thought that strikes me spur of the moment -- a dream, a sentence from a grammar workbook, a half-guessed glimpse down a dark alleyway -- and to then allow my mind to magically do the rest. I never make an outline, but I do have an approximate idea in my head, one that constantly builds upon and improves itself the longer I let the "seed thought" incubate. If I make an outline for myself I tend to end up with the ugly situation of just adding padding between points, my writing falling to the level of merely filling in the blanks than actually creating art.

    For others, of course, it might be different. In my own case, however, I feel that the moment I know precisely how my story will end, the creativity is lost. If I can't even surprise myself while I'm writing, how could I ever hope to surprise a reader?
     
  22. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    That's an interesting way to look at it. I kind of see it the opposite- if I know what the big twist or surprise is going to be, I can hint at it, build it up, make it more organic within the story and plan to give it as much as emphasis as possible.

    But then at the same time, if you know precisely what everyone is going to say before they say it, where's the fun in that?
     
  23. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Planning is different for everyone. I could agrue that starting with just 'The boy had a red ball' and starting to write from there until I finished could be 'planning' In fact it would probably be a more detailed plan then most outlines.

    With this 'plan' you would have to go back and edit and change what needs changing. Fixing up loose ends, getting rid of subplots that went no where. The first draft is just one giant blue print thats really detailed. First draft is just one giant planning stage.

    Of course that just means you have to stretch the concept of what planning is.


    Personally when I have an idea I think about it. I don't make all sorts of outlines and such. I think over my idea. I imagine and I picture them in situations. I sometimes even get flashes of scenes and dialogue that I consider 'set in stone'

    But its all so very basic and mostly in my head. From the idea, the characters that I know about, I start writing and see where the story takes me.

    of course sometimes it is just a very rough idea and thats it. Its different for each.
     
  24. Torkyn
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    It depends a lot on the story as well. Simpler stories don't require much planning because there isn't as many twists and turns, but if you're writing something like a crime novel a certain amount of the plot needs to be worked out beforehand.

    There is a trade off as well. The more planning you do the less editing it will need, usually, and vice-versa.

    I like to plan my stories to some extent such as the main plot points and the beginning and end, but I will usually write the chapters without to much to much of a map and then go through and edit them all later. I find this keeps your story on track, but still gives you room to flex should you need to.

    Like in all things a careful balance is best.
     
  25. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I agree it depends on the type of novel, this dicates more than whats best for the author. My situation I tend to lean towards Edward Gs opiniions.

    I'm writing a novel, with twists, detective type story.

    So there has to be a plan. Free flowing is fun, for short stories, but can also lead to boredom as you jump from one idea to another too quickly and in the end have no interest in development.

    I like to split my novels (just to begin with) into 10 chapters, each chapter has 5-15 key events, and I know how many words I need to write to get to the next chapter.

    The creativity is still there, the voice of my MC always surprises me, and I carry a note book around at all times for those EUREKA! moments.

    This way I don't hurry through scenes, I can allow myself to be creative, but with some control (and my god I need it!).

    The end product will be a book, well considered and enjoyable for people to read, not just for me to write.
     

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