I think it’s safe to say that when I plan something you can bet your sweet caboose that something will probably go wrong. I suck at planning. Just ask anyone who has ever asked me to organise anything ever. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s 100% always my fault, but… let’s just say I’m not entirely blameless either.
When it comes to writing, I cannot emphasise ENOUGH how great and useful planning is. See I even used capitals in that last sentence, that’s how much I believe in it. Seriously, the amount of times I’ve ran with an idea for a story and have written the first 2- 3 chapters, only to grind to a halt with no clue where to take it; it’s shocking. After the initial excitement has died and the writers block has hit where no direction is good enough to take, you end up abandoning this idea at the roadside, leaving a steady trail of long forgotten and grammatically flawed ideas in your wake.
A lack of planning leads to a lack of motivation. In my opinion, if you don’t know where you’re going, then the writing journey is going to be one hell of a bumpy ride. Don’t get me wrong, everybody has their own writing style. Some people may find that the best way to be creative is to freestyle it, and instead of leading the story, allow the story and characters to lead you, but for those who suffer from a similar mindless runaway mentality as I do, it’s a good idea to set out some sign posts.
Being able to make little plot point jumps I find helps keep me motivated and on track so that I always have an end goal. Sometimes it could be fun to shift the posts especially when an aspect of what you're currently writing takes you in a direction you didn’t expect or other elements start to creep in. Just remember nothing has to be set in stone. Except for maybe road signs… but that’s besides the point.
When you have an idea in your head, sit down for a good amount of time and get ready to prepare a road map. This is a personal process I’ve started to do, but as I said before everyone’s different. I’ve written some tips below for when you’ve got the baseline for a story idea. When it comes to planning the actual STORY the process is very different, something I will cover in another post, but these are just some tips for road mapping a THOUGHT:
Firstly I would recommend you word-vomit on the page and eject every minute detail of your idea out of your brain and onto paper. Small aspects can easily be forgotten later and it’s a shame to lose out on those details.
Then try to make some semblance of order to it, at this point you tend to find about a million plot holes and a lot of bits that just don’t make sense or add any value.
If you have an idea of where you want to take the story, write that down, but why not be a little experimental and try out some other branching directions you could take. Never limit yourself to the first possibility.
Decide on the key points of interest on your road map; you could probably use these as plot points for each chapter.
If you have an idea for an ending, great! Jot that down too, but if you don’t, I wouldn’t worry too much. Keep adding to the plan when more aspects come to you and hopefully by the time you’ve caught up with the road map, you’ve figured out your ending.
I guess the crux of what I’m getting to is that a good planned out story is a lot like planning a road trip. Know where you need to go, but maybe every once in awhile check out the scenic route. Every destination needs a great journey, so with your roadmap for backup, remember it never hurts to try a new direction from time to time, so turn up the Jonas Blue, crank down the windows of your Hyundai Getz as far as they go and enjoy the open winding road. This metaphor may have ran away from me.