HOW TO WRITE WITH A PLAN
When creating a writing process that works for you, you have two choices (generally speaking): you can plan your work from start to finish, or you can write from the hip. I believe that both processes are valid, and I’ll tell you about my experience with each.
I chose to plan the entire second book of the The Pioneers.
And here’s what I did.
I took each of my five main characters, Caleb, Sarai, Shauna, Rian, and Gardiv, and then I mapped out character arcs for each of them.
What is a character arc? Well, simply put: it is the path that your characters take – both emotionally and physically.
For Caleb, let’s say, I knew that I wanted him to have his newfound success to go to his head. He’d been a successful Naturalist, and when he’d lost it all, he felt weak and hopeless. This was his motivation.
Afterwards, I needed to establish key things in his path that would propel him to that motivation, so I created obstacles along the way, feeding the pride within him.
That’s the basis of it. I set up an excel spreadsheet, believe it or not (if you know me, you know that I hate admin). But I set it up nonetheless.
On the spreadsheet was Caleb’s name. I had his major arcs on the sheet. There was his promotion, his success, his failure, and then his revelation.
Within his promotion column, I labeled different scenes. Caleb gets the approval of his peers. Caleb goes to the caves to find the mysterious emblems. Caleb brings the emblems to his people. Caleb does this and Caleb does that.
To the right of those labels, I had detailed descriptions of those scenes – a few sentences though.
I did this process with each of the main characters until I was able to map our arcs for each of my characters including locations and times of when such events occurred.
So to keep it simple, here’s the process I used.
1. Select main characters.
2. Figure out their arcs.
3. Create a spreadsheet.
4. Label columns with the arcs.
5. List scenes pertaining to that arc.
6. To the right of each list item, create a column and add a description of that scene.
7. Write the novel.
The advantage of writing with a plan are great! You really get a chance to see the skeleton of your novel before you begin any real groundwork.
You are also forced to stay on track as you write, limiting yourself to your scenes and what you have designed so that you don’t go on some tangent that’ll end up being more work to get rid of during the editing process.
You also have the advantage of accentuating your characters’ key emotions at certain pivotal points in the story so that the outcome can be more rewarding for the reader. What I mean is that if you know a peripheral character is going to die, you have the advantage of hinting at such an event early on and even creating specific scenes that make the reader have a greater affinity for the character.
You lose a lot of fluidity if you adhere strictly to what you’ve planned. It’s almost as if your creativity is limited to the plan that you’ve created.
Many times there is a strain not to deviate from the planning, believing that the plan is supreme, and this can cause forced plot points and shaky conflicts.
This is of course an overview with gross generalizations, but these are all things to consider.
We will look at writing from the hip next time. What are your thoughts?