Okay, fellow writers. This one’s for you. When it comes to organizing my stories before I start writing, I stink. Big time. I have all these ideas kicking around in my head, and I have trouble getting them into some sort of a form that makes sense. This wouldn’t be too bad, except for the fact that I’ll figure something out, then forget that I figured it out already–and figure something else out that then conflicts with what I already planned. Does that make sense? So what I’d like to know from you is how you deal with this. Are there programs you  use? A specific way of organizing things? Please share–I’d really appreciate it, and so would the story I’m beginning now.

10 thoughts on “Planning”

  1. I do a sentence outline. This usually ends up being 2-3 pages long, and consists of things like:
    Ricki rides in the car with Dad to go find Ian. Dad goes off looking for Ian–Stan wanders into a bar and Ricki follows so he doesn’t get away. Ricki comes back out to find that Ian has circled around and stolen the truck. Dad is pissed.
    (That’s a chapter from my current book.)
    Then I do what you do–making things up in the draft. And I end up with inconsistencies. And I have to revise a lot–meaning I sometimes fully retype the manuscript to get rid off all those problems.

  2. The thing is, I’m still in world building stage. Some of the decisions of what happens in the plot are dependent on what can and can’t happen in the world. How do you keep world building straight?

  3. Honestly, I don’t. I make up the world building as I go along. (I know, it’s awful. I’m like the anti-Brandon.)
    See, for me, world building serves the plot. So I have a basic concept for the world. (We’re talking really basic here. 100 word pitch or less. Then I work out the plot, and then I start writing. As I write, I add details about the world, and the world starts to form around the concept and plot and characters that I’ve created. And it’s filled with inconsistencies. And then I go back at the end, have people read it, figure out what’s working and what isn’t, and then rewrite (sometimes fully) for consistency. Inconsistencies and problems in a first draft aren’t a problem at all, as long as you can revise deep enough to root them out when you’re done.
    But that’s me. I’m not much of a worldbuilder, even though lately I’ve been tackling some pretty complex world building projects. I fake it. My worlds are like movie sets. All the details are there, so it looks real, but the only things I actually know about the world are what’s in the book. If you try to delve deeper, you’ll find out that you can walk right off the set, and the whole thing was just an illusion. Again, it’s very much anti-Brandon method, but it’s worked really well for me.

  4. Yeah, I’ve tried that before–and I might end up doing that for this one, too. The problem is that this is the first book of what I’m sketching as a six book series, and it’s important that I set some major things up that will happen in later books now, so that the coolness is there. I’ve never done something like this. I don’t really plan on writing books two through six (unless I get paid or something), but I want to stretch myself in different directions, and this is the direction I’m choosing for now.

  5. not a writer
    I found your conversation line with raisinfish very interesting. The discussion about world building really got me thinking, and honestly what I thought about was CSI. I am a huge fan, but of the original, I detest the other two. I decided early on that the reason the other two stunk (imho) is because they focused too much on the history. The history of the people, especially. Now I know that is character building and not world building, but I suspect the concepts are similar. Couldn’t it be that you could write a brief history of the world (as you might write a page or two of biography for the character) not included in the book itself. Then, as the book is written you refer back to things that are in the world’s history as though they are known fact to all, because we all know JFK was assassinated and the Civil War was about states rights to govern slavery individually. The 35 year old police detective was greatly affected by her mother being arrested for killing her father. Her father was abusive, and the murder was self-defense but still the mother went to jail long enough that the girl was in foster care until age 18. It explains why she is sullen and emotionally detached from most people, she has a lot of practice at swallowing pain. But you don’t know why at first, you just know she is detached.
    The tension on the face of the white woman is blatant when the black man walks up to her broken down car on the side of the road. Waves of relief later come as she realizes he truly only wanted to help her, and he walked into the creek and got her water to put in the radiator, allowing her to move on peacefully. She doesn’t offer a ride in return for his assistance, though he’s clearly walking in her direction with a load to carry. Odd in this day, but in the 20s totally understood. The book establishing it’s 1923 in the first paragraph means the author never need mention a reason for social tensions.
    That got lengthy, but does it make sense? Or help in any way?

  6. Different Thought
    Okay, I’ve never written a book, but I have written a dissertation and keeping track of what I was writing and why was hard. Even in a 30 page research paper I kind of forget what I’ve said.
    I find it helps to have a diagram (mental or actual). I have a starting point (what is known) and ending point (what additional information I found) and then what stuff along the way relates to which path going from start to end. In my head I picture it as notecards and strings of yarn, but it usually ends up being a scribble on a scrap of paper that I misplace when I need it.
    Someone told me Microsoft has a program to do “storyboarding” like this, but I never looked into it.
    I guess in world creation you could have a heading with the rules of the world and strings down to the events they affect in the string of the story.
    Or I may be blabbering.

  7. Re: Different Thought
    Thanks for the suggestion, Becky–any and all approaches are welcome as I try to figure this out a bit better than I have in the past . . .

  8. Re: not a writer
    Yes, Marie–that’s basically the crux of it. The goal with most world building in fantasy is creating a consistent environment where your story takes place. You can’t have dragons breathing fire one second, only to say a few pages later that dragons really don’t breathe fire at all. That’s basic, but that’s the concept.
    The debate is whether to do this ahead of time, like I’m trying to do, or to go back and do it after you’re finished, ironing out any rough spots that popped up. The ironing method is easier upfront, but it could cause massive rewriting issues on the backstretch, whereas the preplanning method takes some time, but (theoretically) saves you in the long run.

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