After a week of furious brainstorming while watching some truly terrible television I have finally completed the plan for the BryBrook epic I won NaNoWriMo with last year (Side note: NaNo 2011 starts in just over three months. Get Excited!).
It’s weird; I normally need to plan out all of my long-term projects before I even begin them. It makes me feel better if I can look at a chapter plan whenever I sit down to write and know exactly where I’m going and how I’m going to get there.
Writing my BryBrook was the exact opposite of my normal, carefully planned approach. Instead, the majority was written in the crazy frenzy that is NaNo with plot points jumping out of nowhere and crazy knowledge (read: wild guesses) about bodyguarding and how to secure buildings popping out of my head and onto the page. It was wild.
Then NaNo stopped and I ran pretty firmly into a brick wall. After a month where I cranked out a monstrous 50k words, I have managed maybe another 30k in 6 months. And I attribute this to a lack of a plan.
It was easy in NaNo to simply create with wild abandon and to start all of these fascinating plot lines with the thought that I’d figure out how to bring everything in for a coherent ending neatly wrapping up all the loose ends later. MUCH later.
And that way of thinking worked for me until later came and it came time to start wrapping up those ends. Due to not having a plan, my antagonist (who kind of just popped up one day during NaNo and integrated himself into the story) dropped off the face of the earth. My protagonists ran out of imminent danger they needed to face and the whole thing started to come to a grinding halt where the sound of grinding is replaced with the cries of an author who sounds suspiciously like she’s screaming ‘OH GOD WHAT DO I DO NEXT!!!’.
It was bad.
Compounding this, my NaNo is the most complex story I’ve ever attempted. Instead of simply having one storyline to follow there’s… quite a few. And instead of only being interested in the psychology of one main character I’m suddenly interested in them all. So my normal planning method of writing a three page ramble that broadly outlines all of the events of the story just ended in a confusing mess of sentences that all began with either ‘And while that’s going on…’ or sometimes ‘Person X is feeling all…’
But at the beginning of the week I decided that I was done with that. If my BryBrook was going to get finished before this year’s NaNo I was going to have to man up and write my damn plan. I was going to have to take all of the threads I had begun in the glorious month of November last year and figure out where exactly they were going to weave into the main story. I was going to have to think.
And here is the result:
This took me a full week of sitting down with my big whiteboard and some very brightly coloured pieces of paper (The same paper I use to entice myself to study for my exams now I think on it) and forcing myself to decide where my story was going.
Every piece of paper represents something. The Blue happens in the past because while I was having my panic about finishing NaNo and not having a plan I decided it would be a great idea to explore my protagonist’s childhood for a while (Which I then proceeded to plan out and write in order to ignore the story proper). The Green represents motivations and stuff I really should remember but can’t really count as a plot point. The Orange and the Red are events in the story. There’s no real significance to the colour change. I just ran out of orange paper halfway through the week.
The original idea was to stick up the pieces of paper all over my mirror effectively covering the only full-length mirror in my house. Thus I’d be motivated to write in order to get my mirror back one plot point at a time. Instead, I have two columns of story and an expanse in which to write notes and stare at myself hopelessly. Despite that, I’m still proud. After six months of procrastinating and avoiding doing anything that looked too much like work I have finally work out exactly where my story is going. I finally have a destination and a map for how I’m going to get there and DAMN it feels good.
Next step- Writing.
Do you like planning out your stories? If so- how do you go about it? Or do you prefer to invent as you go along?