In honor of Camp Nanowrimo and writing in general, I decided to make a post about planning out your novel versus winging it. Actually, I’d like to mention from the beginning that planning vs. non-planning is completely up to you. One way may benefit you more than the other. I am a planner. I write faster when I plan what I’m going to write because I find that I manage my time better when I choose to write down what I’m going to type. Usually I will plan on actual paper instead of using a word processor but sometimes I will write my summaries into the little summary boxes in Scrivener. But usually it’s on paper. Why paper? I just like handwriting my outlines. Simple. If I had two monitors then maybe I would thing about using my computer, but right now I’m set on using my paper.
There are benefits to planning your novel. It gives you a sense of what you’re going to write once you sit down at the computer so that you will have more time actually writing words than staring at the blinking cursor. It happens. I also plan because I always get stuck and having a roadmap leads me by light as I get deeper and deeper into writing. Planning may also help with continuity and getting all those small details right in the future. If you’re writing something that may require a lot of details (ex. sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) planning may become of use to you. Planning is also a great anxiety reliever.
How do you plan, then? Well, that could be up to you, but I usually use a composition notebook for my novels. Every single time I start a project, I use a composition notebook.
I like to use one page per chapter for several reasons: It allows me to plan thoroughly, I don’t feel overwhelmed when I begin to write my novel, I can look back and track my continuity without going through a sea of words. The more drafts I spew out, the more complicated my novel becomes and the more continuity problems I have. I’m so sorry, beta readers. Like I said before, I use composition notebooks so that I can look at things in my own handwriting. It’s also great when I forget to back up my stuff (a post on that coming soon).
I sometimes use legal pads, but those are mostly for chapter drafts.
When I first started writing I didn’t do anything that resembled planning. It’s perfectly okay to not plan your novel because writing off the top of your head may increase your creativity. Don’t know what’s happening in the middle of the story? No sweat! Just write what comes to your mind and you may have a better story than what you came up with in the beginning. That sounds like magic.
But, it didn’t work out for me because of the fact that I kept forgetting what I wrote previously. But at the same time, not planning allowed me to discover new ways to tell my story. It didn’t go where I wanted to go, but hey, I discovered something better.
You can also be a mix of the two. Maybe you have to plan the middle of your story, but the beginning and the ends are in the hands of fate. Maybe the beginning is all down packed but you just want to let the middle and end fly away in the wind, see where it takes you (sorry if that was a bit cheesy).
Whatever your method is, use it!