This is a new series that I am starting about the writing process. Each week, I will focus on something from my own writing processes to blog about. Not only that, but I will have other writers putting in their two cents worth as well, providing insight into their writing styles, because everyone is different.
Just because something works for me, doesn’t mean that it works for you, or anyone else. In fact, like me, you might find that you have a combined way of doing things.
This week, I want to talk about planning. I probably should start with actually coming up with an idea, but I’m actually planning a novel at the moment, and having finished editing another, I thought that planning would work better.
Planning how to tell a story comes down to a lot of things for me. I quite like visual aides, as well as written ones to keep me on my journey. Now I am a planner. I like to plan how my stories will go. Other people are ‘pantsers’ – they write their story as they go – ‘by the seat of their pants’. There are many reasons why people prefer one way or another, I tend to find, personally, that if I don’t plan, my stories end up in limbo and I don’t get it finished because I have no idea of where I want to go. Some people say that Planning takes the fun out of writing because you already know what’s going to happen. That’s true, but having a plan doesn’t necessarily mean that your story is going to continue along that line.
So – I’m a planner. I like to have a beginning, middle and an end, and that’s generally a good place to start. If I don’t have an ending, or a beginning and an ending, but no middle, I don’t have a story to work with. I usually wait until I have all the pieces before putting it all together.
And I don’t always start at the beginning. I might have this fantastic piece of conversation that needs to be put somewhere. I will write this down, and know where, roughly I want it to come in my story. Sometimes I know how I want the story to end, and I have a beginning, and parts of the middle, so I can start brainstorming.
Even if you have all the parts, don’t just assume that once you have your plan on paper that it is set in concrete. It isn’t. I recently planned out a story with the Hero’s POV starting the story, and the Heroine’s POV as the second chapter. However, upon writing it up, I thought that the Hero’s Chapter should come after the Heroine’s in the chronological sequence, so I moved it.
Right, enough rambling. The nitty gritty.
You’ve heard of the 3 Act structure – right? Here is a picture of what is looks like:
The first act, is the setting up of the scene, the hero and heroine meeting. Act 2, is the biggest part, this is where the majority of the action is taking place. Act 3 is the ending.
I like to brainstorm and use notebooks for noting down information, so I sit down with my notebook and start to draw up a mind map with the story title at the centre. From here, I have “beginning” and then some lines coming off it. It doesn’t have to be specific – even just some words – like “Hero and Heroine crash cars”, Heroine annoyed, Hero handsome but arrogant. Hero fascinated by Heroine, but snobby. I break out small sentences to how they confrontation happens. These are my key scenes. From each sentence, I might have some other details – posh car vs sedan, Hero porsche, at fault. Heroine, toyota, late for meeting.
I try and have at least three or four chapters to cover the first part of the book. The first act. The Heroine could be late for her fast day at work, the hero is her boss, unaware that she is his new PA. – Could see where this story leads… can’t you.
I then work on Act 2, this is where the fun begins. You can throw what you like at your hero and heroine. The insurance won’t cover costs as both at fault, she is great at her job, but personality cold, he’s not great with people but fantastic with kids. They both have common ground – both had great relationships with their parent’s, or both abandoned as kids – etc. This is where they have something in common, but can’t get over their annoyance with each other. They play around each other, carefully sidestepping the growing lust between them, trying to resist each other, but knowing that the other has actually got great attributes.
The third act is where you tidy up the lose ends. They come together, declare their love, other issues are resolved. etc etc.
Once I have this, mindmapped across a large piece of paper, I will take sticky notes, or index cards and start writing up the information I have so far. Each piece of paper contains a scene, who’s POV (Point of View) it is and where I want the scene to go. These can be put onto a storyboard to help you pull the story together.
If you don’t know who’s point of view to use, consider this. In the scene, who has the most to lose? The character who does, they are the POV you use. Then I can use these cards, shuffle them around, if I need to, and these are my scenes / chapters for my story. I can end up with lots of little scenes, or lots of big scenes. How you work them if yours to decide – no other writer can do that for you.
Scene 3 – POV Jinny’s and Ethan
At office. Jinny annoyed. Appt, late
Ethan arrives – laughs and jokes
Jinny goes out, stunned by handsome man, angry late
Stunning woman, uptight
Jokes with receptionist
Heads out to car
Drives car, has to listen to him
Late, doesn’t apologise, arrogant?
(Example of a scene card)
I know writers who use whiteboards and attach sticky notes to those, others just have a specific list of what they want to cover in a story. I like to be detailed, without being too detailed – sounds complicated, I know, that’s just me. But it doesn’t mean that my story has to follow exactly as I have it written. Sometimes my characters can throw me a curveball, and I realise that they want to try something else. I’ll go with it, but if the scene runs out of steam, or doesn’t go any further, at least I have my plan to go back to. Sometimes that little sidetrack can be weaved into the story, other times it is dumped. All depends on how you see it.
It might seem like a lot of double handling of the story, but in each process, the information grows, and I have a scene or a chapter before I know it, even pieces of conversation that I can use within the story.
So that is a rough idea of how I plan a story. You may do yours differently. You may find a part or an idea of mine that you think will work for you. Go ahead, do it. I won’t be trademarking anything, it is the system that works for me. It may evolve and change as time goes on, you just never know.