Plotting, planning, scheming, and eventually doing

When I was much younger, in my teens, I used to think that I had no need for extensive planning. I’d just sit down and let it all flow from my mind, connect those plots together using nothing but my raw natural talent. Like most things that rely on “raw natural talent”, this was an exceptionally bad idea and I should have never been so thoughtless. Plans are cool, and the more you plan the cooler you will be.

Up to a point, anyway. There comes a time when you need to take your plan and put it into action, write the story rather than just talk about what it would be like. Having a finished story which is pretty good is a heck of a lot better than only having an idea that might be perfect.

As writers, we need to learn that sometimes we create something we could have done better. We write stories and we are not satisfied with them afterwards. However, there’s only so long you can spend on the editing process. Eternally rewriting the same story is like an ironic punishment in the Greek underworld, all it is going to produce is the same unfinished work of fiction as each pass around just increases your knowledge on what to do better.

A good plan will mitigate your frustration, so never be afraid to work out your plot before you start the writing process. Find a method that works for you: some people like doing flowcharts on paper, others like to create a rough outline and then go back and fill in details over and over until they have what they like. There’s no “proper” method to planning, just like there’s no proper method to writing. But you do need to ensure your plan has enough information in it. The opening scene, the ending, every important moment in between: you need these to be worked out.

If a scene doesn’t seem to fit like it did in your head, don’t abandon your plan. Rework the scene. Your mind is a very important tool when it comes to writing, for obvious reasons, but it can make mistakes. How many times have you walked into a room and forgotten what you went in there for? Writing is the same thing. Sometimes the ideal vision you have is not what works best.

But remember, a plan is just a plan, not a story. If you really feel like the scene should be in there, try writing it out. Cementing the idea into words can help you get a better feel for it, rather than just having it as a mutable concept in your mind. Use your plan as a guide, not as an instruction manual. After all, we’re making art here!