Author Topic: To plan ahead, or not to plan ahead...  (Read 888 times)

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Offline Nahuel

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To plan ahead, or not to plan ahead...
« on: July 02, 2004, 05:03:35 am »
Ever since I was young, and I mean 4 or 5 years old, I have wanted to become a writer... not that I knew conciously that such a job existed, but I liked to write stories and the occasional poem. Sometimes I find old disks I stored them on and laugh.
I still write, even though I've been struggling to get out of a block that has lasted over a year. A lot about my stories has changed, for example the fact that I actually finished a halfway decent one last year. I finished a 'novel' (100 pages) before that, when I was 12, but I didn't think it was any good then, let alone now. I only finished it for my friends that liked it anyway.

So what am I getting at?

Well, the things that haven't changed.

I still sit down with only a vauge idea or a character in mind and write a couple of pages till I hit a dead end. Then the next day, week, or even year I'll write another couple of pages until I can't think of anything.
I don't plan ahead. Sometimes the ending comes to me (like the one story I finished), sometimes I have a vague idea of what I want to happen at some later point in the story. If the latter is the case, I don't usually make it to that 'later point' because I can't think of anything to come in between 'now' and 'later', and I can't just skip it either.

I have read some books on writing stories, and they say to plan ahead, think out the general plot or write down what happens in each of the chapters. I tried this, even in a very thorough way (a computer program of which I can't remember the name) and have found that this only hinders me. I write because it's fun to figure out what happens next, even for me, and if I know too much I suddenly don't want to write the story anymore.
The only thing I want to have figured out in advance is at least one character, an event that gets the thing going, the general atmosphere, the language I'll be writing it in (English or Dutch) and the setting. If the story is set in the modern day I just go "Oh, well, a city of..." and name a city I know something about. If it's in a fantasy setting I can go to great lengths making a map of the country, major cities, history, the people, everything, but I can't plan ahead in the story because it 'crashes' me.

Still, without planning I can't get on with the story because I get stuck filling in the gaps.

So I was wondering, does anyone have the same problem? Maybe some advice? Do you plan the entire story before you start writing it or do you make it up on the go?
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Offline Andrew J

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To plan ahead, or not to plan ahead...
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2004, 10:47:02 am »
Well, everyone is different. I am lucky enough to have had a story idea that found me, instead of the other way around. Just remember that you're the ONLY one who will or can make this story, or otherwise it will be lost, and try to force yourself to write. Remember that: everything will be lost, everything will die--can you have that blood on your hands?

O Discordia, the world grows dark!




"Pity this busy monster manunkind not..."
-e.e. cummings

"Go then. There are other worlds then these."
-John "Jake" Chambers

To plan ahead, or not to plan ahead...
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2004, 10:02:41 pm »
I'm going to go out on a limb and presume that, as a furry, most of your material is sci-fi and/or fantasy.  In that case, its definitely a good idea to plan ahead.

What makes sci-fi and fantasy so appealing to readers is the environment, so that should be what you write about first.  Instead of beginning with the story, write out a brief summary of your setting's history; if it is a different world: its history, or if it is a future Earth: how it transformed from the Earth we know to the Earth it has become.  If you can think about it, describe every major setting and how it came to be how it is, or at the very least, how its residents came to live there, how they survive and what the general mentality of its inhabitants are.

The second thing you should consider are the people of this world (and since this is furry, I'm assuming you have anthros in you're story).  My only advice would be to not just describe your anthro characters as being "anthro foxes/wolves/whatever."  Unless the setting is a parallel world of anthros, your readers will find them more believable if you can give them a racial name, a history, and an alternative way of living (even if the differences between ours and theirs are minor) as opposed to just pointed ears and fluffy tails.

Finally, if you want a seriously intricate plotline, it helps if you can also write a collumn concerning each setting and then switch between one and the other as they begin to interact with each other.  For example, you start by writing about what their current concerns are and how your main characters are coping with them.  Then when you get to a point where one character moves from one setting to another, move to the collumn of the new setting and write about how the residents of that setting react to his/her arrival.  It sounds weird and isn't really exciting at first, but without all the time required for detail and plot development, you'd be surprised how intricate a plot you can write out in such a short time.  Ideally, you should write out the plot up to or near the climax; that's because the climax is one of the most critical moments in writing and it will be a lot easier and more enjoyable to write if you haven't skipped ahead to it.

Once you have the plot outlined, you can return your focus to character interaction and development.  I'm no expert, but I've found that characters tend to be more believable if you're not focusing on making the plot interesting while developing them.

So yeah, the less "writing on the whim" you're doing, the better it tends to become.

My only caution to you: LEAVE THE CLIMAX FOR LAST.  If you begin by writing your story's big finale, the rest of it is going to be boring.

Offline Andrew J

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To plan ahead, or not to plan ahead...
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2004, 11:54:50 am »
The only thing I can add is this:
Defintely make the anthro characters seem different yet not like they're animals--what I try to do is make them seem different than humans yet certainly not just smarter aniamls, so non-furries can like them, and even not be grossed-out if you put in a sex scene.

With the history and world building bit, all I can say is just make sure you don't force it into a prologue when you start writing, as not all of what you write of for your world must be said or used (nor should it.)

As for intricate plot, I can say from experience that what Terastas says is good adivce--though I've never had any problems with it (hell, my four main characters still have yet to meet up with each other, will not, in fact meet up for a few chapters more and I'm 35,000+ words in)--and that the only thing extra I can add is don't hurry yourself to get into things, if you don't start out with tons of people being killed or even have action in the first forty pages, don't worry about it--there are other ways to grab readers attention, such as an interesting world and characters, or promise-of-conflict--as the most important thing is going at whatever pace suits you best, especially if you're doing a novel.
"Pity this busy monster manunkind not..."
-e.e. cummings

"Go then. There are other worlds then these."
-John "Jake" Chambers