I feel a little strange jumping straight into this post when I’ve never posted anything on SBS before. Hm. Anyway, I’ll be posting here occasionally (as “occasionally” as I can think of things to post about, that is) about something to do with writing. And that’s as specific as it gets for now. :p
When you write, how much planning do you generally do? Are you like me, and only plan a few scenes ahead and occasionally know your ending before you get there, or do you like to have everything planned out before you even begin writing?
Recently, I had to write an essay for my comp. 100 class. Everyone was given the same topic: write an essay about how to write an essay. Simple, eh? Enough so, since we’d just spent half the semester going over the basics of how to write an essay and we now had to write about that and do it at the same time. Unfortunately, that meant I had to do some serious planning. If I was going to sit down and write a paper informing whoever was going to read it that planning was an essential part to writing a good essay, I had to do it myself, too.
I’ve met writers—“met” as in known people on writing sites such as Young Writers Online (from here on out known as YWO)—who plan out each chapter in great detail before even beginning to write. I’ve seen some of these peoples’ outlines and stared in surprise as I read tiny details of their yet-to-be-written story, details that I wouldn’t even dream of deciding upon until I was very near to writing the scene, or—perhaps—in the middle of writing the scene itself. On the other hand, all the planning I do before I start a novel or short story is to make sure that I know the basic plot. But is lots of planning necessary? I suppose it depends on the person. For me and my fantasy novels, it’s worse when I do plan.
Occasionally it’ll happen that I don’t write for a while, and in those cases I’ll figure out a lot of what is going to happen in the next few chapters or so, but I find that the more time I have to think about what I’m writing before I actually sit down and do it, the harder the scene is to write. Fresh ideas are easiest to deal with, and there’s a certain thrill about writing into the unknown which doesn’t occur when I know what the next four chapters will be like. This is a perfect example of why I don’t plan: with so many ideas in my head at one time, it’s hard to focus on the scene I’m currently working on. When I was little, I would have just skipped the difficult section to get to the “good part,” but that doesn’t really work anymore, even though I did try it once. (My advice if you want to leave sections for later: don’t skip parts. They’re a pain in the butt to edit in later.)
On the down side of lacking planning, it does make it very easy to get stuck, or be at a loss for what happens next. All too often (which isn’t that often, now that I think about it) I find myself writing a scene and getting really into it when I realize that I can’t continue because I don’t know what the next part is. I’ve gotten used to that, so it doesn’t bother me too much.
Planning is one of those things that everyone talks about, yet it’s really up to the writer. Maybe you’re one of those people who enjoys or feels that it is necessary to sit down and at least know what is going to happen halfway though his or her story. Now, even after writing that essay and planning the heck out of it, I still do little to no preliminary steps for my novels. It’s not necessary for me, and the more I plan the less likely it is that the story will go anywhere. But obviously, this doesn’t work for everyone, and even for me it depends if I’m writing essays or novels.