Lord of the reads: +5406
I absolutely am beginning to understand the value of planning before you write. I was taught the principles of this in my screenwriting class, but for some reason I wasn’t ready to understand them, they didn’t stick with me, they had no resonance.
Having a background in poetry, the discipline there is to be able to have a single thought, or capture a sublime moment and see how that truth links to all the others that have been told about the human condition. This is why I always have a notebook with me, because from these disparate observations come the possibility to be PLAYFUL.
Being so goal driven means nothing, if you don’t know what your “personal truth” is. What excites you and engages you, what your talent is, is your truth. It’s so simple that it’s often distrusted, leaving room for fears and doubts. There are dreamers that dream, and there are dreamers that do… but they are both dreamers however things turn out.
Once you have all these free associations in your notebook, I find that scenes start to develop, using character archetypes was a great scaffolding for me to be more disciplined about character and story. Setting yourself page limits for chapters also ensures that you don’t get bored or “burn out.” Then you are free to play again and if the “vehicle” of the story holds, then the truths inside it are perfectly placed to work well together.
Whether you plan or not, if you have an idea about what you want to say, just try it, place no expectations of “literariness” on yourself, just be as simple and coherent as possible… and play with ideas. This is how we learn as children, and what we forget the value of, sometimes, as adults.
Thank you for opening this great topic to everybody. L
Thanks Adam – you make a really good point here. Anything that is worth spending loads of your time on is worth spending lots of time planning to give yourself the best chance of coming out with what you actually intended rather than what you happened to create along the way. Having said that, there are times when not planning actually gives you a fantastic challenge and the potential to prove how good your instincts are, which can give you a lot of confidence. For example, I tend to see using recipes while cooking as a sign of weakness (strange I know) but have managed to massively impress myself with the things that I can create by guesswork and trusting in my own abilities. Naturally there hav been some disasters but then at least I’ve become less afraid of the taste of failure….but needless to say I don’t take so many risks if I’m cooking ten quid’s worth of steak!!
I agree with Gina – it is a cocktail of both detailed planning and spontaneous creativity that is essential to the process of writing a novel.
For me there are two creative highs of writing a novel. First comes the original idea which has to be thought of, dreamt upon, expanded and nailed down in some detail. Secondly, alchemy – the excitement, the challenge and the knowing that I’m gonna descend the depths over and over in my attempt to turn that written plan into a page turning novel.
The planning maybe a necessary discipline but the act of writing is an unknown beast of willed inspiration that can all but evaporate during these sunny July days.
I have spent the last 6 months planning my new novel and boy, have I had it with planning. I will give myself a break over the summer, let things simmer in my mind before beginning the process of writing the book in September – when the fun, despair, hard work and creativity really begins.
Good planning is essential to everything, especially big projects. In my opinion without planning and research you end up making the wrong thing. Before you start you need to know your market and clarify your strategy to avoid costly mistakes.
However, planning provides diminishing returns on your effort, eventually it is better to get started. You won’t know exactly what to think about and never think in as much detail as when your actually doing it. As soon as things start getting confusing or you’re wondering what to plan next I think it is time to start making. This leads to the next question “What is the best way to manage and build your project or book effectively?”. Perhaps a topic for an upcoming article?
I really have to force myself sometimes to sit down and carefully plan things as I can get pretty impatient and want to just jump straight into starting stuff! When I write, if I’m not careful I end up writing all parts of the piece at once (jumping around and not having a clear focus). I think I need to accept that as more of a brainstorming session and like Adam suggests, accept that most of what I write in that spontaneous phase, won’t end up in the finished piece.
My strategy is to think while doing other things and always have little scraps of paper available. It’s quite funny actually… writing my novel I had a ton of old paperwork from my degree that it wasn’t necessary to file.
I file, religiously. You never know when you might need it. At the end of every academic year, I tidy my desk… it’s like being a geologist, going through layers of the rock of “Leila’s Life”. So, I had all this paper. I decided to tear it up and throw it away, but again, life and chores, job-seeking and visiting… cooking etc… all got in the way.
Then I decided to follow my dream of writing on CN, using all my screenwriting training I, literally got the entire plot out in seven days. But how’s this for the eerie justice of destiny…. I overran seven days on handing in my atrocious failure of a screenplay. Perfect symmetry, n’est-ce-pas? And because I failed then, I knew I had to succeed here, because I was learning from the lesson of my failure.
So… I had all these bits of paper lying around in my room, and a plot in my head, as well as an electronic writer’s notebook previous to this. Suddenly, every day I was having beautiful, relevant, literary thoughts. And all these scraps of paper had one of these thoughts on it. At the end of each day, I log the thoughts into my notebook document and tear up the paper… although I may save a few for posterity now I think of it… If it is meant to me, or in the case of stuck writers, this is a strategy that could help. Just have a pad of post-its in every room of the house.
Leila – I now have a vision of you living in a house with everything covered in post-it notes!
I like your comparison of tidying your desk to being a geologist…maybe that will make that particular chore feel more exciting in the future if I think of it that way.
By the way, on the subject of post-it notes, I found this a little while ago: http://boingboing.net/2010/06/10/stop-motion-super-ma.html
It’s perhaps something you could do with your post-its when you have finished with them!
Lol! That’s great, I’ve always loved stop-motion Anna, from “Pingu” to “The Corpse Bride.” Love it, once did my own stuff on my phone in Blu-Tack which was… experimental! I have a lot of stuff on the side of my wardrobe because I can’t get Blu-Tack on the wallpaper.
I’ve only got one pad of post-its! What, you make it sound like a sin, lol. :D xx