Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Planning or Sailing into the Mist?

I had the idea for my A-Z of Writing at the end of November.  Great, I thought, frantically scribbling down an alphabet on the back of an envelope.  If I do an A-Z, that will keep me supplied with ideas for blog posts all the way through Christmas and into the New Year.  I won't have to think, or be imaginative, or creative at all. I will concentrate on shopping and Christmas instead. That was my plan.

What actually happened was that I changed my mind about my blog posts all the time.  T was going to be about Talent not Totalitarianism, U was going to be about Universality not Unicorns, Y was going to be about Youth not Yippedee-doo-dah.  Perhaps the A-Z would have been better for sticking to the initial list I scribbled down in 5 minutes, but I think not.  They were a bit obvious and boring.  Well, they seemed obvious and boring to me, which didn't bode well given I was the one who was going to write them.

I'm the same with planning what I'm going to writer my novels.  I can plan with the best of them - in fact, I can think of nothing nicer than spending several days faffing around with index cards - but when it comes to actually writing material to flesh out my plan I zoom off piste pretty quickly.  The only time I've tried to stick to The Plan I got so bored I gave up.  

For me, the planning comes best AFTER I've written a first draft, not BEFORE.  I use the index cards to whip that stodgy wodge of material into a decent shape.  This may involve lots of new writing, but that seems to work as I've already got a reasonable framework down on the page.  

Some people need the plan first to anchor them and provide security.  I believe Ken Follett does such detailed synopses of his books that it really is only a matter of fleshing them out a little.  Each to their own.  

I know that I need to have at least something down on the page before I start planning, but the further I have written into the novel, the more detailed my plan becomes.  The plan and the story grow organically together.  But that's my method: it may not be yours. 

Part of the process of becoming a writer is to work out what works best for you.  Maybe you're a planner, maybe you prefer sailing into the mist.  Be open minded, try both, and learn from the experience.  Keep learning.  That's all you can do.  


docstar said...

I definitely sail into the mist. I'm working on one story now with a detailed plan (out of necessity) and it has taken the longest of any - and I get bored so quickly! But I'm nearing the end of the plan - and sooo looking forward to "just" writing again!

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

Planning is great - well at least it's a start. I find I have soemthing to start with and then my muse gets to work and you're absolutely spot on. I change my mind and go in another direction! That, for me, is the fun of it all - seeing where my afterthoughts take me and not being too scared to follow where the muse leads...

Diane Fordham said...

I definitely think it is a good thing to start with a plan, and then see where your writing takes you. I find myself planning some chapters and then there are the others that come from.. the muse? Yes, a bit of both for me. Enjoyed your post - thank you :-)

womagwriter said...

I've tried both and find planning works better for me. Well, I got to the end of the planned novel, and got lost in the mist on the unplanned novel which remains unfinished. Having said that I don't plan in massive detail.

Currently at the early planning stages of the next novel, and it's really enjoyable!