There’s no right or wrong way to write a book (OK maybe that’s not true because I think what I’m doing now, which is not writing at all, is the wrong way to write a book) but everyone has a different way of going about it. There are people who plan every chapter and character, and people who start writing with nothing more than an idea and a blank Word document.
Those are the two extremes, you may be a mix of the two (which is where I think I am). This post isn’t to discuss the right and wrong ways to plan a WIP (like I said I don’t think there is a wrong way), but in the run up to NaNoWriMo I want to talk more about writing and WIPs to help me get my head back in the game.
Plotting and Planning a WIP
One of the problems is that I’ll start planning – start developing my characters, their personalities and all their positive and negative traits, and start outlining my plot chapter by chapter – but the second I start writing that first chapter hundreds of other ideas fly into my head. I have new roles for my characters to play to up the emotional stakes, new ways to end chapters on more intense cliffhangers, I’ll even have new characters all together, and before I know it I’ve only written 5K towards my original outline before realising I need to scrap it all together.
I don’t do well with the half plans I’ve been working off so far. I’ll end up with only 15 or 20K at most written because my idea keeps changing, and while sometimes you need to change where your WIP is going when you’ve been working on the same base idea for ten months and the most you’ve written is 20K that’s when you know you have a problem.
So what am I doing now; I’ve tried a going-where-the-flow-takes-me method of writing, which does work well but only for the first five or ten chapters when I lose steam and have no clue where to go next, and I’ve tried half planning half going-where-the-flow-takes-me, which again does work well but only until I come up with my next ‘great idea’. So going forwards I’ve decided to completely cut my going-where-the-flow-takes-me method out of the equation.
This time around I’m creating a step-by-step plan for my plot, characters and the world they live in (you may recognise that as the same three things I focus my book reviews around too). I’m starting off with the basics – what major plot points need to occur to move my story from A to B, what characters do I need to build my story around – and from there I build upwards and outwards. I want to go into more and more detail until at the end I know what needs to happen by the middle of chapter eighteen and what my main characters’ childhood fear was.
Pinterest is great for aesthetic images – it really helps me to see a rough picture through an aesthetic of what I want my world building to show using words – but it’s also great for writing resources. Also Kat at Life and Other Disasters has created a variety of Write tags which always give me more insight into my characters than a lot of the character interview questions do.
I think at the end of the day, similarly to me being a mood reader, I’m a mood writer. I need to go where my inspiration takes me if not I’ll get bored and I’ll likely stop writing all together, but going forwards going where my inspiration takes me needs to mean, ‘I’d rather write chapter twelve than continue to work on chapter seven’, instead of meaning ‘instead of A happening like I planned I want C and D to happen instead’.
At the moment my plan to avoid that is to keep a notebook on hand when I’m working on my WIP. Any new ideas that pop up will be written in that notebook to stop them taking up space in my mind and at the end I’ll come back to them and see if I can make them a new story, rather than editing my current WIP for the hundredth time in ten months.
Now Onto the Discussion Part of This Post:
Are you working on anything at the moment?
How do you plan your new WIP? Is there a tried and true method you always use, or do you let the story take you wherever it wants to go?
Have you ever changed the WIP you’re working when you’ve had a different idea pop up in your head, or once you’ve planned it once do you stick to that plan?
How do you stop new ideas taking up space in your head and detailing your current WIP?
Let me know in the comments below.