So, I’ve already talked quite a bit in a previous post about how I come up with and develop ideas for stories. Now, I should probably talk about my next step of my writing process: planning. I need to know where I’m going, have a general plot outline, a rough idea of a beginning, a middle, and an end. But at the same time, I probably shouldn’t plan too much. Spontaneity can really help a story.
In general, I feel that a writer has to know where he’s going while he’s writing. He has to know how the story’s going to end and have a general idea how to get there, or the story probably won’t be as good – it will feel like it was made up as the author went along…because it was! Not only that, but planning is necessary to pull off some of the more interesting literary devices, such as foreshadowing or the use of Chekov’s Guns (an object seen or mentioned early, that becomes important later – I’ll reflect on it sometime in the next few weeks).
But at the same time, I treat this outline as more of a guideline than anything. I don’t plan out every word of the story well in advance, I don’t have nearly that good a memory, and even if I did, it wouldn’t be a good idea. I just sit down and type. I think about what I want to say first, and generally go with the outline, but sometimes, new ideas come to me while I’m writing. There is a lot about a story that you can’t really see until you’ve started to write it.
Character relationships, for example, can be planned out, but as I write, I may notice chemistry, or lack thereof, between certain characters that I didn’t plan on. Now, I could treat this as a sign that I didn’t do a good job sticking to my plan, and go back and rewrite it, or I could consider the possibility that the story may be better this way. If I wrote it that way without realizing it, it could make the relationship seem more natural, and less forced.
Other times, I may come up with alternate directions I could take the plot while I’m writing. This may seem risky, but sometimes, these alternate ideas are better than the original one, as they come from when I actually write something, and therefore, come from the actual text rather than an intangible plan.
Of course, before I make any big change to the plot based on a spontaneous idea, I have to think it over a bit first. In general, I have to ensure that it does not interfere with my plan for the rest of the story. If I change something in the middle without changing my planned ending accordingly, well, I end up making plot holes. I have to adapt the plan for the rest of the story based on the idea. In other words, I can never just act purely on a whim. This may sound like a paradox, but there is planning involved in being spontaneous.
In “The Cromm Conspiracy”, I first planned an outline for the story as a whole. Then, when I started each chapter, I planned out the main events, and what I wanted to happen in each chapter, just a very basic outline of what I wanted to happen in that chapter. As I wrote it, the details came. My general outline for the entire story though, was much more basic than you might expect for a 100,000+ word novel. I really can’t go into detail, though, without spoiling something I want to publish, but a lot of my favorite twists in that novel came from spontaneity.
Basically, what I’m saying is that for each of my stories, I make a plan about what I want to happen, but the plan is never set in stone. As I am writing, if I come up with a good idea that’s a bit different from the plan, I certainly consider it.
Anyway, thanks for reading my weekly reflection. I’ve got to go meticulously plan out my reflection for next week, so until then, White Rakogis is signing off.