Planning is Hard

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?

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About Meg Laverick

I can never be found without a cup of tea in my hand or a notebook in my bag. In between university and generally being awesome I read, write and nerd (that's a verb, right?). I also like analysing things that are probably best left alone.
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14 Responses to Planning is Hard

  1. Lainy says:

    See, i enjoy that planning part but nothing ever eventuates from it. Just lots of rather awesome plans. I wonder if that’s because i plan to the end and then know how its going to end and so lose interest. Hmm. How could i forget your BryBrook for procrastination? I have assessment due every week this semester. *rushes off to catch up*

    • Meg Laverick says:

      Haha. You have no idea how much I approve of being used for procrastination. Reviews? *puppyeyes*
      Just HOW many abandoned plans are we talking here? Because it has been an AGE since I’ve seen some LainyWritings. And NaNo IS coming up (Have I mentioned I’m super excited? Because I totally am)

      • Lainy says:

        Many.

        Many, many plans. There’s one currently floating around in my head but i rather like it so i’m not writing it down in case i decide i’m bored with it. Short attention span and all. Although, i think it has a mind of its own the amount of times it changes. Scares me a little. Maybe i’ll attempt NaNo this year and get some of it out. I will never get to, what is it, 50k? i’ll most likely get distracted and start doodling it.

        Unless i’ve decided i’m going to stop procrastinating completely and focus entirely on Uni.

        Ha ha ha! That’s never going to happen.

  2. Meg Laverick says:

    Never stop procrastinating. NEVER.

    I find that unless I write down plans they change on me. Mostly in ways that don’t make sense, unfortunately. So then I return to the original scenario until another random, nonsensical tangent pops up. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

    Totally do NaNo. It’s awesome. It’s awesome enough that I was kind of longing for November to come around in February (It took me two months to come down off the first NaNo high) And never say never. You’d be surprised what a liberal amount of bullying disguised as cheerleading can motivate you to do.

    • Mhazie says:

      “You’d be surprised what a liberal amount of bullying disguised as cheerleading can motivate you to do.”

      15k, in my case! XD

  3. phoenixandtiger says:

    It might not be the best idea to put up that picture….but I love getting spoilers.

    I sometimes plan – depends a lot on what I’m writing and depends on if I actually want to think that hard about it. I mean, before I got into Beyblade, I used to think up so many YGO and HP plots. I would write out the entire plot, cut it up into chapters, and then write out a tiny summary of each chapter so I would know what to write. Then my mind would come up with a what if, somewhere around chapter 7 or so, and then I’d have to think up an entirely new and shiny plot, and there’s another one.

    Sad thing is, I discovered the wonderful world of Beyblade at around the same time I was wrapping up one of the last plot bunnies I had had in a while, and now all the plots are just sitting in a binder, waiting for the moment I find the muse for that one again and start writing.

    Hmm. NaNo. Ever since I found out what it was, I’ve been thinking about doing it. I even have a half-baked idea that I can use for it, but then…I’m not sure I can get up to 50K.

    – phoenixandtiger

  4. phoenixandtiger says:

    Yo, forgot to add: on NaNo, do you have to write every year? Or can you just write for it one year and skip two years?
    Thanks!

    • Meg Laverick says:

      Haha. Just don’t give yourself eyestrain trying to read it. I think if you manage to make any sense out of the tinytiny words you probably deserve spoilers. Probably. (I know I could only make out some names in that photo and I know what every one of those bits of paper says)

      Colour me excited for the day (and it will come) when the plot bunnies strike you again. Because, frankly, if your past stories have been results of non-plotbunny-related joy. Daamn.

      Like I told Lainy. Totally Do NaNo!! I know 50k sounds ridiculous (and it is) but it’s totally achievable. It’s a voluntary event so you don’t have to write every year. But I can almost guarantee you’ll want to. This year I’m having a crack at my first full-length original fiction. Can’t wait!

      • Lainy says:

        I saw the word gangstas. That made my day! That was enough of a spoiler for me XD

        Slept on it and totally considering NaNo. Might even write out my plan/possibly do a storyboard. The problem is my beginning sucks and is giving me a headache. That’s really they only part that changes. Yay for originals!

        Also, did i mention how awesome i think it is that you went through with this blog? No? I think you’re awesome. I’d love to do a blog but i have nothing interesting to say. Ha Ha. Much more interesting to read your musings. 🙂

  5. Meg Laverick says:

    Gangstas is possibly the funniest word ever. Though must admit that by that time I was using words to amuse myself rather than for acuity so possibly the least useful spoiler ever. That said, I’m impressed that you managed to make it out.
    EDIT: JUST realised that you could click on the picture and get a clearer, more legible version of the plan. This has since been fixed XD

    Yay! Potential NaNo buddies! Why not just skip the beginning and jump right into the parts you are sure on? Either that, or pick a beginning with the understanding that if you find out you hate it at some later stage you’ll change it then?

    It only took me… a year? Of talking about it before actually getting around to writing this. Though thanks ^^ I’ll try to continue being interesting. No guarantees though.

    • Lainy says:

      I actually had an epiphany… yesterday? god that seems like a while ago… that i’d skip to the part where it starts flowing smoothly and gloss over the beginning in one of those ‘and how did i get here? well long story short he kidnapped me AND moving on’ moments. except with less kidnapping. and interesting flashback/memories that have any sort of relevance. which are few and far between. haha! Success! (well works perfectly in my head, we shall see)

      That’s what i was going to say, did you have a post lined up about point of views? i always have a hard time choosing one or deciding which one i like better XD

      And i’m going back to reading. *disappears to procrastinate*

  6. phoenixandtiger says:

    Haha…Sucks for you that I saved the pic (the big version) onto my computer before you changed it (I was actually going to read it when I found the time)….so HA.

    Decided on NaNo: I’m gonna do it this year and never do it again. Maybe. I still have that half-baked idea starring Bryan and a lovely song as inspiration.

    @ Lainy: I completely forgot about POV’s. You just reminded me. Thanks!

    And I’m just gonna blab for a bit about how much I hate 2nd POV. I hate it. HATE HATE HATE.

    Well, off to practice my butt off.

    – phoenixandtiger

    • Meg Laverick says:

      *shrugs* I can’t stop you from spoiling yourself. Though personally I like being surprised by stories.

      Yay! NaNo buddies! I’m so crazy excited for NaNo this year. Though my exams start on the 5th of November and end on the 19th which will make the whole experience… interesting.

      Alrighty, I’ll see what I can cook up with POVs. I really like 2nd person, actually. Have you ever read The Bride Stripped Bare? It made me fall in love with the somewhat detached and yet very personal style writing in second person lends itself to. Plus I was reading a book on Narratology (apparently that’s a thing XD) last semester that was talking about how reading second person is an exercise in translation because in order for the story to work the reader constantly has to work in order to do the mental translation from 2nd person to first. Fascinating stuff.

  7. rtyecript says:

    I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

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