1. Epsilon
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    Epsilon Member

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    Preparation - How Much Do You Do?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Epsilon, Jun 2, 2010.

    I looked briefly down the page and saw a thread entitled "How Much Research Do You Do?" and although somewhat pertinent, I felt just about justified in making my own thread. My question is this - how much planning, when considering a work, do you undertake? Do you know exactly what direction you'll be headed in? Do you already know the ending, and how you'll get there? How much "fleshing out" of the story/characters is done along the way, and how much is known before you start?

    I always used to charge in headfirst as a youngster (not that I consider myself particularly aged now, but I've been "into" writing from a very young age, especially when my parents were told I was quite poor at English, and needed to work on it) and simply write whatever came into my head, making decisions along the way. Often I'd literally start with an idea or scene, perhaps an image that had stuck with me that day, and everything would begin to take shape from there.
    Planning is never something I was good at. You know that "preparation time" they'd give you before those excruciatingly long English exams? I didn't use much of it at all. Although I winged it then, as I try to develop my writing, it's a problem I'm encountering - in my opinion, your works can never truly be great unless you know where you're going to end up.
    What does everyone else think?
     
  2. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I don't think that it's desirable to be too rigid with regard to how your characters develop or how the story will end. Sometimes, I find that my characters develop as a result of the circumstances that I throw at them, rather than their reactions being pre-determined because I've already worked out every facet of their personality.

    As for the story generally, I don't advocate planning an ending in advance. By all means have a good idea of what your novel is about and the rough direction it's heading in, and think about each chapter before you write it, but sometimes by staying "loose" you can allow the story to go off in an unexpected direction which is actually an improvement on your original thought, so it's worth staying flexible.

    I think you can miss many fine opportunities if you have too fixed a mind with regard to the various aspects of your story.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Some writers have to have every scene plotted out before they begin actually writing. I prefer to begin with partially formed characters and a general sense of the direction the story will take, ad go from there. I prefer the flexibility of that approach. It allows te characters and the plots to grow more organically.

    It is very much a matter of individual choice.
     
  4. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    To quote from your post, I tend to wing it a lot.

    If I'm writing a short story then I can do a rough plan in my head and write it without the need for a written one, this then gets developed through the editing process. Again I can do the same for anything which is longer. At the minute I am writing something which could easily surpass 100,000 words so I am taking detailed notes as I go along just to help me keep track of the story and the characters that I'm introducing.

    This is personal preference and I'm sure that as you develop as a writer then you'll identify a writing style that suits you.
     
  5. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    In my personal opinion you can't plan anything one hundred percent and expect it to follow through as you planned it. Nothing goes completely as planned. The same goes for writing.

    There are just some times when the story changes from what you originally planned to happen in a scene. The same goes for characters. Before I started one of my stories I had my characters rigidly planned out and meant to stay through with them. However, when I started on the story, I realized that they didn't work with the story at all and had to change some things about them.

    So not everything works out to the precise planning you made. Things change, variables pop up, etc, etc.

    But to each his own, if it works for you then by all means follow through with it.
     
  6. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Kinda of what Cog said. I start with a compelling premise, then muse over personalities that would be optimal catalysts to the plot, and then suffer through many, many days and weeks of fleshing out, before setting anything in stone. Just me.
     
  7. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    Depends on the story or the novel.
    For short stories I usually have a general idea of the story and the character(s), then just go from there.
    For novels I like to have an outline (even if it just says things like char 1 meets char 2-hates him or Lucy gets into barfight). I've got one novel I'm working on, however, that refuses to be outlined and so I'm just going with it and seeing where I end up.
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I like to have the full story in my head, and an idea of some of, or most of the characters; as well as some sentences I want to have in, and things I want to talk about. I also like some things that the characters will do, talk about and their habits - I feel these help make my characters into people.

    Aside from that, I also enjoy having a vague idea of what the story might symbolise, if that is what I intend of it.
     
  9. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it depends. Most of the time I'll do no preparation and just write as ideas come to me, with no idea about where the story is going. Sometimes I have a plan of where I want the story to go so I just follow that as I'm writing, although half the time my plan changes.
     
  10. Jenni
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    Jenni New Member

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    My planning is mostly in me head. I'm always thinking about my characters and what's coming next but I don't like to plot it all out in advance on paper (or screen). I do have a few notes on the computer but with characters I make notes as I go along (mostly so I don't contradict myself further down the line).
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i just sit down and write!

    if i find i need to do some research on some part of what i want to write about, i'll stop and do it... or, if i need to find out something before i start, then i do that... and if it's a complicated book that needs an outline at some point, to keep the timeline or subplots from getting tangled, i'll stop and do one up...

    the point is, i've no set routine for writing... mostly i just write till i get to the end of whatever it is...
     
  12. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Bogging down my mind with planned plots and such usually sucks the life out of my stories. I tend to have a rough plan, that I may deviate from if my creative spirit comes up with a better idea extemporaneously.
     
  13. Legacy1306
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    Legacy1306 Senior Member

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    It really depends on the writer. At regent university, for example, they classify their students as one of two types of people: They are planners, or not. Some people can go and write a dissertation of the top of their head (thats me :) ), whereas some people have to really think it through, and plan out everything before they put it down. This can make it easier to plot it out, but it can also make it harder if its just not your thing. I literally find it difficult to plan before I write, whether I'm writing a two page essay, or a hundred page screenplay, i literally cannot plan before I write. Its all you, man.
     
  14. bahloo
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    bahloo Member

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    Sometimes I'll just sit down and write. Oftentimes the first word I type will become a scene which snowballs into a bigger idea. Other times, I think very hard about an idea. I flush it out in my head for days and days. I think it all depends on the idea. Like Mia pointed out, things that need research will be researched.
     
  15. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    Really, I don't do that much preparation. I might jot down a few names and a few key events, but other than that, I just kind of wing it. The stories just seem to flow as I write.
     
  16. JessicaMaybury
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    JessicaMaybury New Member

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    I was going to post here about novel structure. My fiction lecturer said that sitting down and writing out a detailed plan is not something that not many people would do. Although, I'm interested in learning how to write with a thrilling plot (think cliffhangers) and to that end I'm going to copy the plots of books I've loved.

    An interesting book in terms of structure is The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. Read it go go go!!
     
  17. bahloo
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    bahloo Member

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    I read that book in one of my first year English courses. It was pretty good as I recall, but I'll never forget how awful the movie was when we watched it in class.
     
  18. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it depends on what I'm writing. I started one piece with the main protagonist jumping to his death off a cliff, and the story was told as his life flashed before him. I ended up being quite surprised by the twists and turns the characters took, but there was no doubt about where I had to get to. With some genres there are pretty much set rules about where you're going to get to, as well -- if you write a whodunnit then you're going to end up revealing the culprit, and if you write a romance then you're going to end up with a couple getting together, and you can't be too surprised about which couple because the genre requires you to signal it pretty clearly. Ok, you can subvert that and break out of genre, but if you do that and you were writing for a genre market then you'd better find yourself a new market.

    I certainly find that my characters tend to go off and do their own things, but if I just leave them to it then they go off and live normal lives and there's no story. I have to have some idea which way I'm going to herd them!
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. I give the impression of writing essays and dissertations off the top of my head, but I've spent an age of what looks like unproductive time planning and assembling it in my head. My fiction writing seems to be working in the same way.
     
  20. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    I have a passionate hate for outlines. They were the bane of my existence in every single English class I had to go through for my 4 years of high school (good example being this year. We were forced to write "story charts" for a good portion of the stuff we wrote....in Creative Writing).

    Preperation for me always seems to be a mental thing. All of my story ideas, no matter what they are, come to me randomly from either an outside source, or literally from no where at all. Sometimes they will come to me only with the idea. Other times they may come with characters, scenes, or other misc things alongside the idea.

    Whatever it is that comes with the idea, I always let it sit in my head for a while and "incubate". This gives the idea and whatever came with it to grow and expand while I work on other things. When the story is ready to be written, it will let me know (usually with very strong knocks/urges or a continuous string of visions showing various scenes it made while it was incubating).

    Right now I have at least eight novels and one short story circulating in their own personal ovens inside my mind. My Demon Story is the one I'm working on now because though it came 7th in the list of ideas, it developed the fastest and came with more resources to work with (my hero, heroine and villain literally made themselves, for example). The second novel I'm slightly working on along with it is the oldest of my ideas that developed second in speed to my first novel. However progress on the second one is slower because my efforts are being focused on my Demon Story, which is fine as it's letting the second one incubate more while the other six ideas continue incubating at the same time.

    Each of the eight ideas demand different things from me as far as research goes. My Demon Story involves a LOT of research on medieval society and technology as well as various things regarding character development and some animal research to better develop animal-specific traits my prominent half-demons will have or exhibit in the story.

    My wolf story (the second novel), similarly, involves a lot of research into wolves and environments.

    Ultimately, though, whatever I end up needing to research for each idea then influences how the idea grows based on what I find. As plots incubate and start rising, they may or may not grow more complex--depends on how high they rise. If the plot becomes complexed and layered (like it has with my Demon Story), then that idea will demand SOME kind of outline from me so it doesn't end up imploding on itself.

    At that point I'll sketch out the roughest outline I can possibly make and only define something minutely if it's vital. Otherwise, all I do is write down the chapter number and make a simple list of the ultimate goals that need to happen in that one chapter before the next one can begin. This way I know the who, the what, the general when and occasionally the why, but the how is all left up to the characters. So far it seems to be working.
     
  21. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    I do the same; rough outline of a story and partially-formed characters, then I just let them wander and have them grow and mature as the story goes along.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Although I don't believe in overthinking the storyline and characters from the outset, I do make sure I do my research on matters that are central to the story. I put in a few days of research in finding a suitable star at the right distance and type, and in designing the physical parameters of the planet that is the setting for a science fiction novel I'm working on, in order to make it as scientifically plausible as I can. In the process, I had to discard some of my original ideas, because the scientific requirements to make them work would have adversely affected the story.
     

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