That next book – to plan or not to plan?

There’s no doubt having a clear plan for your novel can help. However, do you have to have everything down in detail before you start writing?

First to regular readers of my blog, apologies.  I know I haven’t written a post for some months now.  Nothing dreadful has happened, it’s just for various reasons it’s been, and still is, a busy time (OK not all of it).  I haven’t stopped writing, sometimes I think it’s the only sane place to escape to.  In fact I have two more Kirby books waiting for proof reading completion (bit of a snag there as well) and a fourth one started, more of that later.  I’m also trying to edit two follow-ups to the first book I wrote that have been sitting on my hard drive for a few years (I know, I know….).  So you see lot’s going on.

The other reason I haven’t posted for sometime is that, to be honest, I haven’t come up with anything I thought worthy of posting.  I’ve had a bit of a drought, post wise.  Then, the other day I read an article extolling the virtues of planning your novel, to the extent that it implied to write a good book it was essential.  I’ve written before on the pitfalls of some writing advice and I’ve always maintained take it on board, be self-critical, but in the end do what works for you.

Now I’ve run the whole gamut when it comes to planning, from simply letting it flow to a detailed plan of the whole plot before I started writing, and everything in between.  After my first two books I’ve been using Scrivener for my writing (I can recommend it) which does make the planning side easier and I suppose since I started using it I have planned more.  For the Kirby books I’ve planned more, perhaps because they’re mysteries which can be a little convoluted plot wise, so it’s good to know where I’m heading.  However, those plans have always been fluid and if anything one of the advantages of having a plan (whenever it’s written and even if it keeps changing) is it helps me work out the impact of any plot changes.

Now the latest Kirby book I’m working on, is breaking that pattern.  It currently has the least planning, mainly because I was struggling for a plot.  In the end I kind of gave up and decided to write the odd idea /chapter I had in my head, with no idea how they fit together.  I was hoping for inspiration.  At this moment I would say it’s working.  Its weaving itself into a story, so I’m going with the flow.  When the overall plot takes shape then I’ll do more planning.

So back to that detailed planning idea.  I’ve read books by an author who believes in that total planning, I’ve even followed some of his advice.  My only problem is that when reading his work I started to find his books a little formulaic.  Is that, partially at least, down to the detailed planning?   He is successful (far more so than me), so he’s doing something right.

If you look at that white board image, this is how my planning starts.  It then evolves.  In the past I’ve got half way through a book and then planned the last half because I wasn’t certain where it was going.  I suspect it’ll be the same with this latest Kirby book.  As for detailed planning, try it by all means, I did.  How do you know if it won’t work for you if you don’t try?  Bottom line, do what works for you.  Don’t feel you have to slavishly follow what is gospel for someone else.  Be flexible.  As I said with my latest book I started writing bits and pieces which are now looking more and more like a book.  If I hadn’t, I feel I might still be searching for that killer plot and I’d have lost some of those good ideas.

As always comments are welcome,

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

3 thoughts on “That next book – to plan or not to plan?”

  1. I’ve tried to plan, but it kills my creativity. I have a loose outline – a start point, an end, and a few points along the way that need to happen, and that works for me.
    As I get further through my series, I have more plot lines that need accommodating, but a detailed plot? Don’t think I’ll ever do that.

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