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nadinbrzezinski

Planning a novel

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Well, I know there are two schools...

 

Start writing and let it go through... in the end you will have a nice story that will need a lot of work... (don't they ever)

 

School number two is to do outlining... some of this might even involve extensive background writing... and research (currently readying a book on ancient oracles for ahem... research)

 

So here is my question... how do you mostly write?

 

I used to do the former, but quite frankly the latter leads to a better organized piece of writing... even though at times characters still go their own way and you have to ahem... pound them back....

 

Discuss

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I'm mostly a pantser (do a search on pantser to find all those threads). And I don't think "better organized" writing is necessarily better writing in fiction. For non-fiction, sure. But I feel that fiction needs to flow from the heart. The post-story re-writing is just the price we pay for allowing our imaginations to run wild. Of course, being a pantser doesn't mean you don't do research.

 

As for the "two schools", I'm not so sure there are just two. Are there really any writers who don't do some combination of the two? You simply can't plot out every last detail without actually writing the book, which would make you a pantser. So there is, I believe a balance between the two schools.

 

Just some thoughts.

-Thoth.

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Since I write fantasy, where one of my standards is "the weirder the better", I have to plan. If I was doing crime drama in New York, I think I would have enough stored, automatic knowledge to wing through a lot of it. I don't live in New York, but I do live on Earth, I think.

 

For instance I just started planning a book last week (I hate this part of the process - blank mind of death leave me be!) and there is a village where everyone is watched by these ephemeral spirit-things. They are called... wait for it...

... Watchers.

This was during a sort of brainstorming stage, and I built them into the plot until I got stuck and realized - who or what the crap are these stupid things? So far their inclusion was strictly utilitarian, unconnected, and could have been easily done by any number of other means (I was showing a huge nut in the plot mechanics) . I also had sort of governing body stuck in there called the Judges Council - utterly unconnected to the Watchers. Bad.

 

And being fantasy there is all the world-building. Is there magic, what are the rules? The list goes on forever.

 

I think that after all the planning and thinking, you shouldn't have at your side anymore than a page or two outline like chapter or scene headings like: The Crash, The Break-up, Uncle Paulie Amputates his Own Foot! etc. But before you bring your character into her bedroom you should really have been there before your reader - it should be his first time in there not yours. I don't think it is even something that has to be written down, necessarily.

 

That is, if you take the planning route.

 

If a writer can just start writing and end up with something halfway good, power to ya. Hell, Stephen King did it a couple times. I just hate it when a book reads like someone came up with some shallow cookie-cutter-characters and through them up in the air and recorded what they did without ever having a clue what was coming next or how it would end until they wrote - THE END. They are easy to spot when reading - THEY REALLY SUCK!

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I'm mostly a pantser (do a search on pantser to find all those threads). And I don't think "better organized" writing is necessarily better writing in fiction. For non-fiction, sure. But I feel that fiction needs to flow from the heart. The post-story re-writing is just the price we pay for allowing our imaginations to run wild. Of course, being a pantser doesn't mean you don't do research.

 

As for the "two schools", I'm not so sure there are just two. Are there really any writers who don't do some combination of the two? You simply can't plot out every last detail without actually writing the book, which would make you a pantser. So there is, I believe a balance between the two schools.

 

Just some thoughts.

-Thoth.

I think it makes a difference what you're writing. Authors of mysteries and thrillers need to have at least a plotline before they start, I think; romance writers need a sense of who the hero and heroine are and what their major conflict is, if not how they will resolve it in the end; creators of fantasy worlds need some idea what sets their worlds apart and what the rules are, and so on.

 

Don't we all, pantsers and plotters, start with an idea, a "what if"?

 

That said, I find flexibility to be key in the actual writing. Things pop up that may appear tangential, but if I leave them be, they sometimes open up a whole new storyline or character arc (if not, they get pruned in the next round). And although I go into a story with a rough idea of who my characters are, I can't flesh them out until I see them in action—and interaction.

 

I'm a pantser, and proud of it. :D But I don't just sit down and write without planning anything. I also plan while I'm writing—that is, I'll write several chapters, wonder where this is going, and take notes or work out the next stage before tackling the novel again. That's why I love Storyist: because I can record all those questions and developments in the Notebook as I go.

 

Perhaps that's why I can't completely convince myself that I would do less rewriting if I planned everything out in advance. There are just too many elements to juggle in producing a good novel.

 

I would agree with Thoyd that unrewritten pantser novels can be mind-numbing word salad. But I suspect that unrewritten plotter novels are bad, too: unless the author is a creative genius, they end up predictable and not much fun to read.

Best,

Marguerite

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Well folks editing is part of the process... but for me it is automatic. I would never send an unedited anything to a potential agent or publisher... not even the query letter....

 

Now I find myself writing a FANTASY novel, and creating the world from scratch. That said it is somehow the continuation or image of the sci fi world I've crated, and the mental powers are very similar (You could say that is nice... a small part of the work has been done)

 

And I am sure once the thing is finally put on paper... it will have at least five rewrites before it is "finished." After all, nothing is truly ever finished...

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Don't we all, pantsers and plotters, start with an idea, a "what if"?

 

My ideas more often start out with, "Wtf," but I'm sure many of you could have figured that out already from my posts.

 

That said, I find flexibility to be key in the actual writing. Things pop up that may appear tangential, but if I leave them be, they sometimes open up a whole new storyline or character arc (if not, they get pruned in the next round). And although I go into a story with a rough idea of who my characters are, I can't flesh them out until I see them in action—and interaction.

 

This is a good point. I started out with a main character that was an air force officer, trained to take orders. I realized that it opened him up to so many more experiences if he were to question his orders instead, so I dropped the military aspect and made him a victim of circumstance instead.

 

I'm a pantser, and proud of it. :D But I don't just sit down and write without planning anything. I also plan while I'm writing—that is, I'll write several chapters, wonder where this is going, and take notes or work out the next stage before tackling the novel again. That's why I love Storyist: because I can record all those questions and developments in the Notebook as I go.

 

And don't forget, recording it in the notebook may help you make a link to some obscure reference several sequels later, which I know I love when I run into them in the books I read.

 

IF

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