So I was pointed to the Snowflake method of novel planning today. I’d heard of it before, but never really investigated. Today my curiosity was peaked, since someone mentioned that my planning method looked a little like Snowflake, so I went over and checked it out. Obviously every writer is different in terms of how they plan and what works for them, but Snowflake is definitely a nicely detailed checklist of things to do for people who don’t know where to start. (It’s also fairly time consuming, so it’s not for the super impatient, sad to say.) Certainly it’s interesting, but one sentence towards the end caught me eye:
I have heard many fiction writers complain about how hard the first draft is. Invariably, that’s because they have no clue what’s coming next.
This to me is a bit astounding. Not because I always have an idea of what’s coming next (I almost always don’t) but because to me that’s the fun part of writing. I love following my characters into the unknown and figuring out what’s going to happen as they do. It’s exciting, not knowing where this journey will take you. I write for the same reason I read: I want to know how the story ends and what happens to these people when they get home again. Planning a story too thoroughly ahead of time ruins that journey for me because I already know everything. There’s nothing to explore anymore, nothing to discover.
That’s not to say that I don’t plan. I do, sometimes quite extensively.* But my planning revolves more around worldbulding than plot or even really characterization. My characters often come to me fully formed, and those that don’t tend not to want to give up their secrets until we get to that point in their story. Lately I’ve been playing around with the idea of a scenelist, an idea borrowed from Rachel Aaron, who pointed out that the scenelist doesn’t have to be in order at the beginning of the process. She goes on to write out every single scene, but I stopped at the more important ones and put those in order. So, for instance, here’s the scenelist for Skytouched, which is a story I hadn’t planned to write until July but sometimes life doesn’t work the way you want it to:
There are, in fact, twelve chapters in Skytouched, but the last three don’t have any scenes yet and, anyway, my screen won’t hold them all at the same time. The novella is planned at around 50,000 words, and I have 19 scenes listed. That’s not nearly as many as I’ll have in the final draft, but these are the ones that I considered important when thinking up the story. Actually, this is fairly detailed, as scenelists go, because my main characters seem to enjoy talking to me. The scenelist for Amberspun Spiderwebs (my official Camp NaNoWriMo project) is much more typical:
This is for a full length novel, not a novella, mind you. These characters are being quite reticent about their story, though presumably they’ll open up as I actually start writing.
Anyway my point is that nothing works for everyone. For some people, planning everything out to the most minute detail works best. For some, doing that is akin to committing creative suicide before even starting to write. But at the end of the day, there is no right way to write. Really the only way to figure out what works is to try out several different things and see what fits. Writing should be fun, and anything that makes it fun is the right way to do it.
In other news, Camp NaNoWriMo starts in a little over 24 hours. Expect regular progress reports throughout June.
All pictures are of the Liquid Story Binder program, for which I cannot claim credit.
*I plan more extensively for fanfiction than I do for original fic, but that’s a blog post for another day.