Writing

Reader question: How much do I plan when I write?

[aesop_image imgwidth=”100%” img=”http://marisa.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/6776877812_176f899533_b.jpg” credit=”Plan B by Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr” alt=”Plan B by Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr” align=”center” lightbox=”on” captionposition=”center”]

A couple of my friends are reading my novel draft as I write it. And this then leads to some very interesting questions.

Am I a good novel writer? I don’t know – that’s a question for you to answer once you read what I write. But that isn’t the question I am getting.

The question I am getting is usually along the lines of “Was X planned?”

The general answer is “No.”

I think this question arises from the fact that many people are taught, either in school or university, to plan their essays and papers and to structure them in a certain way. So I get it – it’s a valid question.

Does a novel have a structure? Yes, it does. Generally, structure in a novel = some combination of plot + the way the plot is conveyed. Plot = what mad shenanigans the characters get up to.

Do writers plan their novels and drafts? Some do, yes. Some do so to the extreme of planning and plotting out every detail.

Some do not plan at all. Some are in between where they plan some bits and wing the rest. When I wrote Sedition‘s first draft, I carried pieces of paper around with me to constantly redraft the timelines of when things occurred. Apart from that there was very little planning or plotting.

But with HIM, it’s one character and I am writing from start to finish. I knew where I wanted it to start and I know what I want her to do at the end. I know what she does in very general terms with a couple of minor characters and the sort of entire idea that I want the story to convey.

That may sound like a lot but it is not. Beyond those points, I didn’t plan anything at all, I just started writing what is pretty much termed an exploratory draft. It may work, it may not. It may require very little rewriting or a lot. I won’t be able to tell until I either finish it or get too horribly stuck halfway through. I don’t even know if it is a novel or a novella right now.

But to my friends, something must be working out right because what my character is thinking, feeling, doing, experiencing, to them it all seems precisely calculated.

To me that’s a good thing. There are things that seem to work in each scene so I add them in and I do think about what each scene will be and what will happen but usually this is just before I start writing it and while I write it only. It isn’t planned any more in advance than that – it occurs during the actual sitting down writing process.

And it is encouraging because if it seems cohesive enough to seem extremely planned in advance then well perhaps I am writing well and the story will end up working out after all.

Do ideas come up as I write? Yes. And this is where things become very serendipitous for me. I find that if I fill my brain with all sorts of random facts, ideas and knowledge and then sit down to write stories with just the germ of an idea of where it will start and actually get out of my own way, my brain will take over the writing and will tell the stories. The characters do their thing and I, in quite an odd journalistic way, try to be very true to the telling of the story of what they do as they do it as I see it occurring.

 

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is currently based in Melbourne.

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