Thursday, August 24, 2017

Story Planning: What I've Tried and Failed At

Hey guys!

Random update about my life: I have a new laptop!  I was using a Chromebook before, which was annoying because every time I needed to use Microsoft Word or anything else that didn't use Google, I had to switch to a different computer which ran about as quickly as a turtle and was an ACTUAL ELEPHANT and completely impractical for college life.

So story planning.

As a writer, I'm supposed to plan stories.  I've tried a couple different kinds of planning, and I thought I'd share my experiences in that area.  Note that I am not a planning expert.  Just slightly organized.

Anyway if you like to read about people's failures (SHAME ON YOU), or if you're looking for ideas when it comes to planning and how each kind works outside of Pinterest (because let's face it, none of us are that perfect), keep reading.  Oh, and if you want to try one of these, please do, and let me know how it goes for you.  Everyone's different.


1. Flying by the seat of your pants.
This is what I've called planning for most of my life.  I start with a story idea, and.....

Yep.  That's basically it.

These stories normally fizzle out because my characters just end up wandering around eating pizza and talking about their problems.  I might have a rough idea as to where I want the story to go, but it will never actually get there because I don't have anything for the middle.


Oh, and the one story that did get past three or four chapters was a train wreck, the characters died without my permission, one ended up outlawed, a few got married accidentally, and the traditional mourning colors changed mid-story.  


2. Scene by scene.
Because when one thing doesn't work, you try the EXACT OPPOSITE. 

Yep, I tried to plan a story by working out every scene in detail.  I used index cards and a little index card folder, which was rather cute, but very overwhelming.  After sitting down and planning out the first few chapters, I started writing.  And then I reached the end of what I'd planned.  I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep it up, and I had to find some kind of planning that sat happily in the middle of the two extremes.  I'm sorry, super-detailed people.  Not my thing.


I also found that this gave me absolutely no wiggle room, which is very important to me.  My rough drafts are VERY rough, and I expect to make a lot of changes in the second round.  With this kind of planning I felt like I was trying to produce something final on my very first go, and it stresses me out just thinking about it.


3. The rough outline.
This is the one I started out on with the story I'm writing at the moment.  I had a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It was written down (not just floating around in my head), and I knew where I was going with the story.  The problem?  If I were to write the story based solely on what I had, there would be exactly three chapters.  Three rather short chapters.  That's not a novel.  I had to find filler of SOME SORT, and it had to actually add to the story.  

Which is how my main character ended up following a toddler around New York City, getting into a massive argument with said toddler's older sister, having a huge existential crisis, and ruining the ending I had planned by dropping out of the story.




So what am I going to try next?  Chapter by chapter.

Yep.  I'm gonna take my story, divide it by chapter, and figure out what I want to happen in each one.  This is less detailed than scene-by-scene planning, but my characters won't be wandering aimlessly through NYC, eating pizza, or dying unexpectedly.  It'll also be easier for me to keep them in character, as I'll have a set goal for each of them in mind.  

So what do you think?  Do you have a planning style that works for you?  Have you tried one of these?  Let me know in the comments!

2 comments:

  1. I'm gonna try to schedule and write my story like Death Note. Each chapter will have a specific goal that is reached/failed at the end, ultimately advancing the plot significantly each time.

    Not sure how I'm gonna do this. But I'd like to try.

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  2. That's how a lot of TV series are written. It's a good idea, and I can't say I've ever noticed it in a novel before. Can't wait to see how it turns out!

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