IWSG: To Plan or Not to Plan


This is my latest post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, wherein on the first Wednesday of every month we post about writing. In this month’s post, I will 1) share some untruths about fiction writing and 2) attempt to be funny.

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on plot, character, and world development. This means setting up background info so it’s there when I need it and I’m not just making up stuff as I go along. Of course, I do make up stuff as I go along but I don’t want people to know that.

Fantasy world systems tend to be crazy complex in ways no one wants to know about, except you, the author, who wants to make it look effortless and consistent, as if you have the equivalent of three or four encyclopedias in your brain. You’re not making things up. You’re just casually referencing Volume 3, Page 307, Section A: The Everyday Habits of the Cave Trolls. Because you remember that kind of thing.

Because it is all real.

Suspension of disbelief. So important.

I can’t just research and develop a world system, beyond a certain point. I need to write the story first, because I don’t want to bore people with boring details I was bored writing. Also, I am lazy. Creating a world system I’m not going to use for a story sounds like a lot of hard work. And … a little bit crazy.

What about you? How do you set up your story? Do you have a plan? ‘Tis it nobler in the mind to make things up as you go along or to plan it all out first?

On a related note, do you ever like to think out loud, to someone you know will listen?

hamletAh, sweet voices in my head. I know them well.

Calm Before the Storm

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This week a fellow writer posed a question to an online forum. He wanted to know what to do when you start to hate – or at least dislike – your current project. The majority of responders advised him to put it aside for later, which I thought is really good advice if possible.

Sometimes it’s not. I am about to finish a professional, non-fiction project with several hard and fast deadlines, a project which seemed like a good idea at first. I’ve just made it through most of the flaming hoops (more or less unscathed) and now it is down to the final edits. I will be so glad that I went through with this, I tell myself – because it is true. Who knows, I might even be brilliant.

Recently, a friend found an old poem I wrote during high school. I don’t remember handing it out, but do remember all the angst and feelings that were part of the creative process, the emotional roller coaster of good and bad feedback. Sometimes I’d think – that’s it, I’m never sharing anything ever again.

Eventually, especially when there is no hard and fast deadline out there, eventually you just have to say I hate this because I’ve agonized over it. This text made me work hard. And that may be why this is going to be a great read for someone who isn’t me.

There are also times when I can be in love with my writing. A text can be so fun to write and so lovely and so wonderful – but not to anyone else. Not yet. Sooner or later (always too soon it seems) the text has to go to that First Reader, another human being with their own life and their own time frame. And then, we wait.

Here comes Monday.