For some writers the idea of planning a novel seems like the death of creativity. For others, it is essential. But how much should you really plan your novel. Here’s what you need to consider:
Planning can be a good thing for some writers but planning to write is not writing and it can divert you from getting on with actually creating your novel. Planning is meant to help to understand your novel and to keep things straight in your mind but sometimes you can plan so many details of a novel that you want to write that lose that sense of discovery of creating on the spur of the moment and bore yourself from the moment. Try to find your balance and to focus on writing more than planning. I prefer little notes, sometimes on my first draft, sometimes just on a piece of paper. Usually they are just ideas or a bit of history that I think is key to the story and want to remember, even if it never makes it into the novel.
2. Notes or Plans?
Are you planning because you know the full story already and want to write it down or because you don’t know where you are going? If you don’t need to know every detail of your story to write (which is more my own style of writing) then you might need notes not plans. Notes are more about writing points down as you think of them so that you don’t forget them. Plans are about organising your novel in detail. Not every writer has or uses plans. It depends on how much you need to know to progress. Personally, I tend to start with a general thread or idea of events and a single character and create as I go along. I use notes when I am inspired and think of more information that I don’t want to forget later. Don’t be afraid to write without a plan. You can always go back and start again from the point that you think you lost your way and you can always edit later.
3. What works for you?
Some writers are heavy planners. They need scene by scene plans, plot outlines, detailed character bios and organised databases of their novels details. Others like to go into the act of writing with very little information about where they are headed and what they are going to write. Many writers fall somewhere in the middle. You main focus in novel writing is to write and to enjoy writing your novel. How you do that is down to you. Listening to other writers is great for finding new tips and ideas but it is always about what works for you. I have found that the best writers to listen to for advice are those like Anne Rice, that have a lot of experience and that advocate personal choice in the writing process, recognising that each writer is different. No matter how successful are writer is, their method may not work for you but they still may have some great tips that do.
Writing plans is really not something that you should feel pressurised to do. If you spend all of your time writing plans and never actually writing then I would suggest leaving the planning for a while and trying just to get started. If you never plan and want to just head straight into it, then remember to write notes when you get ideas every now and then so that you don’t lose important information that you might need later. If you do lose it, it’s more frustrating than a real problem but it just helps sometimes to write a little note. Above all, enjoy the process.