Monday 21 January 2019

Planning & Plotting - The Creative Process

I've done a few pieces on planning and plotting. It's been something I've talked about on the blog, and also on my Authortube channel. Blog posts are: here, here & here. Videos are here & here. So it's a topic that I've covered, that most writers with advice blogs will cover, but yet I'm doing it again! Why? Maybe it's the fact that it's a new year or just the fact that as I write more, I get better at my own outlining, plotting and planning stages. Who knows, but we're going along for the ride!

So, a few facts before we start. I am a hybrid in that I am both a planner and a panster. I'll discuss pantsing next week, but for now I'll focus on that side of me that needs to have some kind of outline before I can start writing. I've talked about that before too (pieces here, video here) but I feel that it's very important to mention so that everyone knows where I'm coming from and also what tools I've used.

Now if you're someone who wants to plan extensively, that's more than fine, but I don't think this is the blog piece for you. My idea of a plan is writing out days of the week, chapter headings and a few bits and pieces as well as character cards, and then letting myself go off on whatever journey it takes me on. I have some idea of the story before I start. I can't just plot or plan a book that has nothing already thought up. But I do find that I'm slightly less rare that I thought I was. There are a number of people who plan and outline meticulously, and there are those rare few who pants the whole thing, but there are also a whole ton of people who, like me, straddle the two labels. The proper term is plantser but I prefer hybrid because of my Doctor Who roots!

So where do I start? I will, generally, have the ideas phase and then move onto the fleshing out of those ideas. Some call it brainstorming, others call it something else. I picked up the term: thought-dump from Jenna Moreci and I like that one best. I open up a notepad window and I type out everything I can think of that's needed, everything that's inside my brain in terms of the idea and getting it down. I don't have organisation in mind. I'm just typing out everything. This can be from plot points to character descriptions, to even lines of dialogue or prose that I don't want to forget. This stage can take anywhere from a couple of hours, to a week or more. It really depends on how much time I have to devote to it and how much of an idea I have.

When I feel completely dumped out, that's when I'll start creating the chapter plan, which is my version of an outline. I open Word and work out how many chapters. I generally will have the day of the week - I do this because it's nice to have continuity if it's needed, it's not always - and I have the general idea of what the chapter will involve. This can be anything from one word to a short line. And I keep going until I have all the chapters and all the plot points laid out. Then it gets printed and a few other bits and pieces added to it, like page numbers and the day I start and stuff like that.

I do those for a number of reasons, none of which matter in the grand scheme of things, and so we can ignore that. When I've done that and got it all printed out, I move on to character notecards. And these are literally note cards. I did, for a while, think about going digital and got an app where I could type it all out, colour coded and everything. Of course that worked fine, but then I realised I had to scroll to find the ones I needed, and I didn't always write with my tablet/phone nearby. So I'm back to the physical versions and while everything isn't colour-coded, it does mean that I can move things around as the characters become more/less relevant.

So what do I put on those notecards? Characters name (first and last if needed), their physical description and any other information that might be relevant. Like for the Invisible series, I've got notes about what condition they have, when it appeared, and all of that. I also make sure to keep other important info that's happened in previous books on the note card too. This way if I need to check something, I have it all to hand. I learned that while writing the Dying Thoughts series. It was all well and good knowing Tara's description etc off by heart, but sometimes I couldn't remember what she'd done in each book and I needed that continuity!

And once all that is done? Then I'm more than ready to get my backside in my chair and start writing the book! That's just my way of doing things, but I feel like everyone has a slightly different routine and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with outlining, nor pantsing, nor anything in between. You gotta do what works for you and while you may need to experiment slightly to find what fits, it's all about getting the right method and making it your own! Good luck and keep writing!

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