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Thread: How much time did you spend planning?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    How much time did you spend planning?

    I definitely enjoy the planning, character development, world-building process, but I'm starting to feel like I've been stuck in planning mode FOREVER.

    I know I'm not done yet though. I personally feel that meticulous, detailed planning will ultimately help me enormously in the long run when I actually start writing. I know others feel differently and many like to make up things as they go along; I'll do a bit of that as well, but my instinct is to want to know as much as possible about my story before starting my first draft.

    I've officially been in planning mode for about 6 weeks (though it's really been longer than that, because I developed the initial concept last year before starting up again), which doesn't seem like much in the greater scheme of things, but it still sometimes feels like it! :P

    How much did you/are you spending planning before you start your first draft?

  2. #2
    figuring it all out Shirokitty's Avatar
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    Far too much time, if I'm being honest. Though certain key elements are still place, I've scrapped ideas and come up with new ideas that it's hardly the same story I first had in my head.

  3. #3
    Old Party Girls are more fun! sobellejanet's Avatar
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    I spend a lot of time in planning. I have to. I'm a Virgo. We are mentally very organized. Plan away. Although it can't be a substitute for actually writing which is the hard part. At some point you have to face the blank page. Ugh!
    You are today where your thoughts have brought you, you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.
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  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW CJSimone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flambeau View Post
    I definitely enjoy the planning, character development, world-building process, but I'm starting to feel like I've been stuck in planning mode FOREVER.

    I know I'm not done yet though. I personally feel that meticulous, detailed planning will ultimately help me enormously in the long run when I actually start writing. I know others feel differently and many like to make up things as they go along; I'll do a bit of that as well, but my instinct is to want to know as much as possible about my story before starting my first draft.

    I've officially been in planning mode for about 6 weeks (though it's really been longer than that, because I developed the initial concept last year before starting up again), which doesn't seem like much in the greater scheme of things, but it still sometimes feels like it! :P

    How much did you/are you spending planning before you start your first draft?
    Hi Flambeau. I did no planning for my current WIP. I knew the characters, started writing and the story came. I didn't know the story was going to include the mob, the rescuing of trafficked kids, an angry pimp or much else. I winged it like most everything in my life. If I plan a story out, it feels forced when I write and I lose interest. But I've probably spent more time reworking and revising than those who plan ahead because I had to completely reshape and rewrite things as the final story came about. Basically, I throw something onto the first page (like characters meeting or characters interacting) and then have to mold it into the form of a structured story.

    I wouldn't worry that you're spending a lot of time planning because it could really save you in other ways. What works will vary depending on your needs and personality and style. Good luck with it!

    CJ

  5. #5
    Ideas bounce around in my head Jason's Avatar
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    Planning? What's that?
    2017 Goals
    Read 50 of these books
    Come up with a good book idea and actually write it!

  6. #6
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    It sounds like maybe you are caught in a world building loop.

    I worldbuild as I go now. Otherwise it is easy to get bogged down inventing the equivalent of an RPG splat book. The world will change anyway once you start the ms.
    "Though one evil spirit may drive a woman out of Eden, all the devils in hell cannot drive Heaven out of a woman."

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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Bacchus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    It sounds like maybe you are caught in a world building loop.

    I worldbuild as I go now. Otherwise it is easy to get bogged down inventing the equivalent of an RPG splat book. The world will change anyway once you start the ms.
    ^ What Harlequin says (apart from about the RPG splat book - I don't know what one of those is, but it doesn't sound good...); your world will change as you write and as you revise. I expect you'll even want to make changes after it's published!

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Magnus's Avatar
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    I used to be a planner who would never get around to the story. I thought it was impossible to write if I didn't know everything before I started. That was wrong. It didn't matter how much I knew about the setting and the intended plot if I could not actually connect with the characters on an individual level. And that's where stories happen.


    So I tried pantsing it completely. That didn't work, either. Now, I'm somewhere in between. I set up a premise, I build up some basic facts about the setting and overall story, and I start poking at the world with smaller stories or scenes. As I go, I am forced to develop the setting and plot. Sometimes those change entirely. I'll move bits of the story around to make an interesting plot. It rarely ever plays out the way I planned it, but those initial plans gave me something to stand on and something to reach for. I think that's the key: You need a base and you need a goal, but don't make them too defined; it's often when we miss our goal and surprise ourselves that we can also surprise our readers.
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  9. #9
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Heh! RPG splat books are also called "setting" books, or world books. They're written for tabletop roleplaying games, and all they contain is information about whatever fictional world (SF, fantasy, historical, modified contemporary) you are using for your game. They have no story, and are designed for gamers to "play" in.

    Worldbuilding is fun. It's not novel writing, though, and the worst part is that it *feels* like progress, when it's actually a distraction.

    Getting stuck in a worldbuilding rut seems to be a common pitfall for many writers, particularly SFF ones, and particularly gamers (ex or current). It certainly happened to me; I spent years trying to worldbuild without actually writing, only to discover that the majority of world I'd created didn't fit once I'd actually attempted the story. Probably 99% of that work ended up in the metaphorical bin.
    "Though one evil spirit may drive a woman out of Eden, all the devils in hell cannot drive Heaven out of a woman."

    -- George MacDonald

  10. #10
    Contemplating stuff.. warau's Avatar
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    I make a very basic outline of the main plot giving it just enough detail to allow me to stay on track as I write. If I have a solid idea as I begin the outline I can finish in around an hour. If I am sketchy on the main plot it take longer because I stop to brainstorm until I get it worked out. I don't like to take too long on the outline because it changes once I begin writing the first draft.

    I did finish one short novel that I began without an outline. Never again.
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  11. #11
    figuring it all out Gidget1225's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacchus View Post
    your world will change as you write and as you revise. I expect you'll even want to make changes after it's published!
    I, likewise, plan mostly as I write, which often means at every red traffic light, every commercial that comes on tv, every walk that I take, anytime that my mind is otherwise "unoccupied." Although the basics are in place before I start (and I even make a note of some of those), I allow the story to take me places as I write. Honestly, there are times that I have wondered if I'm merely a conduit for my characters. I suspect that if I were to plan much in advance, my characters would lay to waste a vast majority of those plans.


    DISCAIMER: Gidget is an unpublished writer. Season all comments, even those appearing to be "sage" advice, with PLENTY of salt.

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    A few days, maybe a week. Most of that is plotting.

  13. #13
    Come on you stranger, you legend, Devil Ledbetter's Avatar
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    Formal planning: Very little. Informal planning in the form of reading nonfiction related to my novel's subject matter: tons.

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  14. #14
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flambeau View Post
    How much did you/are you spending planning before you start your first draft?
    Anywhere from a few days to several decades. Some ideas come quickly, others take time to fester.

    But, it's a first draft. Write it. That will reveal areas you need to go back and change your plan to fit the story. You can never plan for every possible outcome, so get the basics and put your butt in the chair.

    Jeff

  15. #15
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I spend approximately no time in planning. I will daydream some rough idea of how it all ends. The first thing I actually write is often 'Chapter one".
    Emily Veinglory

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW LeftyLucy's Avatar
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    Quite a lot for my current WIP. And it was justifiable initially - I have multiple POV characters and they all live in different time periods - none of which I have lived in - and in different places - none of which I have lived in. So a certain amount of research and planning was needed to get legs under the thing. But then I realized that I was using planning as a way to avoid the actual writing, which I had a lot of anxiety about (see sentence #2 - this is an ambitious project). So I stopped planning and researching and just started writing. When I hit a wall, I wrote through it. Most of that writing was crap that will get tossed, but that's okay. And now the story I was worried so much about getting legs under miraculously (the heavens opened and the angels sang) has form and substance and so much more than just legs.

    What I learned from this - which applies to me and may not apply to anyone else, so take it FWIW - is that a couple weeks for planning/research is reasonable but anything more than that is procrastination.

  17. #17
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flambeau View Post

    I've officially been in planning mode for about 6 weeks
    Well, six weeks isn't all that long for someone who likes to plan first. OTOH--

    my instinct is to want to know as much as possible about my story before starting my first draft
    You won't truly know everything about your story until you write it. There comes a time when you just have to plunge in. And then you'll be amazed at what changes along the way.

    For myself, I don't plan in advance. I learned the hard way that planning was a waste of time, because whatever I'd planned wasn't going to be what I wrote. My brain apparently needs to approach the story as if it's never been told before, and it only wants to tell the story once. But every writer has his or her own way of doing things, and part of learning to write is learning which methods work best for you.
    Last edited by BethS; 07-17-2017 at 06:36 PM.

  18. #18
    Derailed WriteMinded's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flambeau View Post
    I definitely enjoy the planning, character development, world-building process, but I'm starting to feel like I've been stuck in planning mode FOREVER.

    I know I'm not done yet though. I personally feel that meticulous, detailed planning will ultimately help me enormously in the long run when I actually start writing. I know others feel differently and many like to make up things as they go along; I'll do a bit of that as well, but my instinct is to want to know as much as possible about my story before starting my first draft.

    I've officially been in planning mode for about 6 weeks (though it's really been longer than that, because I developed the initial concept last year before starting up again), which doesn't seem like much in the greater scheme of things, but it still sometimes feels like it! :P

    How much did you/are you spending planning before you start your first draft?
    Gearing up to get the next best-seller onto those blank pages, writers run the gamut from engaging in intricate preparations to the equivalent of leaping off a cliff without wings. Most of us are stuck in the modes that work for us and can't break out of them. I suspect it's like eye color. It can't be changed.

    Just reading about your process, makes me feel tired and frustrated. My way, I'm pretty sure, would make you feel like you were staring at a wall instead of a page.

    From my POV, I'm very lucky in these ways: 1) My characters spring to life, full blown and well known. 2) My worlds are created to fit the story and the personalities of the players instead of the other way around.

    On the opposite side of the coin, I start out with only the vaguest of paths to follow. I know where the end is, but getting there can get confusing, and I sometimes take a wrong turn. I would love to have an outline to follow, but I can't seem to write one.

    IMO, you are lucky because, in a sense, your story is half written before you start. All you have to do is fill in the blanks. You are right, I'm sure, about your preliminary hard work having a big paying off. Still, I have a warning for you. Many people who put as much energy as you do into the planning never get to the writing. It just turns out that they are great planners, but don't much enjoy the writing.

    Here is a suggestion for you: Put your plan aside. Open your word processor and start the first chapter.
    Last edited by WriteMinded; 07-17-2017 at 07:08 PM.

  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    My current work is a mish-mash of detailed but informal planning, and my usual "Let's just see where this goes approach." The idea and world of the novel is one I've been carrying around for years, but I didn't want to write it until I felt I was better at the craft, so I just let it percolate, bringing up odd conversations and questions about its world with people in various discussions and then packing those answers away.

    So when the time came to actually write it, I have over a decade of musings about the world itself to pick from. But actually writing it meant only having a clear image of the end, and a couple of events in the middle, with the rest of it being one big question mark, and starting the writing to answer those questions and find out how the hell things got to that ending event.

  20. #20
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    As everyone has shown with their posts, every writer is unique. We all work differently.

    In your case what you call planning seems to be essentially research and world building, not plotting. Have I got that wrong? Because our suggestions will depend on that.
    Last edited by Laer Carroll; 07-18-2017 at 09:30 AM.

  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW Magnus's Avatar
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    Laer Carrol I would say that planning isn't just research but building the setting, characters, creating background stories, and outlining the plot. For a fantasy/sci-fi setting, it's constructing the world in which the story takes place. It's like building the house before filling it with people.

    When it comes to successful writers, they are all over the spectrum. Some plan everything before writing, some plan nothing, and then there's everything in between. There's no right or wrong, here. Only what works for each writer.
    Last edited by Magnus; 07-18-2017 at 12:33 AM.
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  22. #22
    I aim to misbehave Myrealana's Avatar
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    I spend too much time planning, but I'm getting better.

    There's a Goldilocks amount of planning that I'm trying to get to. I tried full-on pantsing with nothing but an idea and it is not for me. I've tried having a full composition book worth of plans, notes and outlines before I start, and I think that's too much. I worked the idea to death before I typed a word. I'm working on locating the perfect middle ground.
    -- Myrea
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  23. #23
    Turning the monsters loose borogove's Avatar
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    Six weeks? Don't beat yourself up. It took me three and a half years from when the concept popped into my head to when I started the first draft. There's no magic formula for this. And if you're an outliner/planner, the time you spend setting up the pieces on your board will serve you well.

  24. #24
    figuring it all out Jeff Bond's Avatar
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    I spend quite a bit of time planning up front. Over time, with each successive manuscript, my final outline and first draft outline have blurred together-- now I'll toss up a bunch of empty chapters in Scrivener, with the major plot points roughed in, and spend a couple weeks brainstorming about my characters and sticking anecdotes/snippets of dialog/whatever into a chapter where I expect they'll fit. Gradually the plot fills in, and by the time I sit down to write paragraph one, I have maybe 1/3 of the "word mass" I need for the full book.

    My advice would be that as long as your book is coming into greater focus, rather than the reverse, don't sweat it.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW
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    This question is more than slightly genre-dependent. Fantasy writers, methinks, get more immersed in planning than people from any other genre, even more than mystery writers. Sometimes, for some aspiring fantasy writers, that can become a detriment.

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

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