Challenge Yourself: Planning
The second blog in the challenge series by DragonSoulJess
Planning a novel (or even a sort story) can be a daunting task, but before we jump in and sort out that problem, let me say this: planning is not for everybody. Some of you will work better with plans, but some people say plans suck the fun out of writing. If planning your work takes the enjoyment out of actually writing it, don’t feel the need to plan; you can always go back and change things later, or alternatively, you could map out a rough plan and leave it at that. Do what’s best for your work and yourself.
With that said, plans can definitely help some people. They can make sure your characters are consistent and well-written, they can make sure your writing doesn’t wander too far from the plot, and they can help you figure out what you should write next. So – where to start?
One solid method is The Snowflake Method – starting out from a small point and expanding from this, developing the rest of your story in steps. This planning method keeps everything organised, and tends to be very effective in stopping you from getting bored. There’s a much longer blog about this method by Sanguine, so check it out here!
Personally, I like my plans chaotic and spontaneous, starting out from a compilation of ideas. I jot down anything I think of (mostly for characters and scenes) before my plan is even mildly coherent. I have a notebook (and several pieces of stray paper, used in the absence of said notebook) filled with notes for a novel I’m writing. I like thinking things up and figuring everything out as I go. This definitely isn’t as organised as the Snowflake method, but it works for me.
At first, everything is chaotic and I have loads of ideas floating around, and when I’ve got enough notes, I’ll start mapping out the plot, numbering all of my scene plans and figuring out where to place them chronologically. When I’ve got the plot and characters figured out, I’ll go into the other aspects of the novel, doing research for worldbuilding and figuring out all of those little details. (You might want to start with the aspect most important to your novel – you could begin by planning characters, plot or worldbuilding, it’s up to you.) It is also probably a good idea to look over your plan before you write and make sure all your scenes are important to your novel – if they’re not, you can get rid of them now and save yourself some time.
While the Snowflake Method starts from one point and expands outwards, creating the ideas from the main focus of your novel and building from the middle, the method I use is more about stringing existing ideas together. There are, of course, countless other ways to plan a novel, and a useful page which details a few of these.
Of course, you need actual ideas to start your plan – but where do you find these illusive creatures? Ideas are everywhere – it might just take you a while to figure out how to find them...
Maybe one of the most important starting places? When you’re trying to decide what you should write about, just ask yourself that all-deciding question: What do I want to read? When you figure that out, go write it! Find that story that the world is missing, and make sure it gets the best writing you can possibly write.
But what if you don’t know what you want to read? A good place to start is with what interests you. Love medieval history? Or maybe you’re fascinated by horses? Great! Do some research, and something you read about might catch your eye. Maybe you’ll find a really interesting fact, and you will want to expand upon this. Maybe this fact will inspire your whole plot, or maybe it will give you a starting scene to work with. Maybe you’ll read about something that happened in the past – an unexplained death of a prince from centuries ago, perhaps – and this could give you some ideas, or maybe you could take this story and make it your own.
If research isn’t really your thing, you might find that observing people helps you out too. One game that can help you figure out some awesome ideas? Watch people (in the least creepy way possible:) and make things up. Why is that woman constantly glancing at her phone and biting her lip? Why is that boy limping? Doing this could give you a starting point for your writing, or could help you figure out a new character to throw into your work.
You can find ideas everywhere. Sometimes, they’ll flee from you and refuse to be found, in which case you’ll have to work super hard to find them. Whatever you decide to do, big plan or small plan or no plan - good luck and have fun!