The Writing Habit: Planning

So, as promised, here is my thoughts on Planning storied thoroughly before writing them.

I think I’ve always been a natural Pantser, so this has been the harder thing for me to get my head around at all.

In order to start, I’ve invested in a giant notebook, along with a large blank pad of paper. I’ve heard there are other methods.

Lillian Heart swears by planning all her stories on computer, but that is far beyond me. Apparently it involves spreadsheets, word documents, and folders, but this is not my style. For anyone who works well with PCs, do give it a try.

I’ve also heard of using programs such as Scrivener to make lists and folders and write down details. Again, not my thing.

My thing is paper. I find that the written word on screen is scary, whereas the written word on paper, oddly, feels less permanent, less intimidating. And thus, I scrawl.

For anyone else trying Planning on paper, don’t be afraid to scrawl. Write notes coming off other notes. Write in the margins, write on the backs of paper, on sticky notes. Above all, write in big flowing diagrams. This has helped me hugely. Paragraphs are hard to follow, hard to see through to the salient points. Flow graphs are easy. Bite-sized chunks of info and big arrows? Yes please.

Character Bios go at the start of each notebook section, with a few pages left clear for all these details. It’s very helpful, if nothing else, to have a list of characters’ eye colours, hair colours, heights, preferences, etc. It saves the awkward situations where characters unexpectedly dye their hair halfway through a scene 😉

All in all I’ve found the process very freeing. I’ve been using a variation of the snowball technique, where you write the big picture, then you write a longer version of each part, then a longer version, and so on and so on. I still can’t bring myself to write down to the very smallest details, but they are usually easy to fill in when I turn to the PC for the true manuscript.

Is anyone else here a Planner? Got any tips for maximising Planning success? Or got any gripes with Planning your books?

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The writing habit: Pants or Plan?

This is a debate I keep having with Lillian Heart (my porn-buddy, and the reason I’ve been self-publishing. Go check out her work, it’s great.) What is the best way to write? Do you plan every little detail, making piles of notes? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants, and write it all without any forethought?

Undoubtedly it’s a question of balance, but finding that exact balance seems to take a long time for each writer – because no two writers will approach it the same way. So how do we find that balance?

I’ve been experimenting with writing different ways recently. I have two notebooks. One is a notebook of story ideas to ‘Pants’. This notebook just has very rough thoughts. For example, the notes for Breaking the Stallion (warning: spoilers) were:

D tries to find T. Catches other horse instead. Brother? 

Everything else – the other 6000 words – were written as I went along, and with that in mind, I’m rather happy with the outcome. Since it takes so little time to write down ideas like this, I’ve got several potential series listed this way, across multiple genres, kinks, and lengths. This notebook also fits into a pocket, letting me carry it around and note down ideas wherever I am.

My other notebook is much larger unfortunately, but it needs to be. It is a full A4 pad, filled with loose sheets up to A2 in size, all covered in scribbles. Plots, character bios, flow diagrams, and even maps, fill the pages.

Needless to say, this takes a lot longer, and I’ve never had the persistence to write a whole novel down to the very smallest detail. Still, there is something nice about running with a well-thought-out idea. It makes the actual writing easier, as you’re never stumped. You know exactly what you’re going to say next.

Despite these first experiments, I’m not certain where I fall on the spectrum of Pants-ing and Planning. I’ll keep you all updated with my findings, and hopefully come up with some ideas to help you try the two extremes yourself.