Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Planning (a.k.a. musings in pre-NaNoLand)

A short or relatively-short story usually requires less planning than something… say 30k words. In that case, I usually just let things flow with just the help of a few notes – a small notebook is always handy for that. However, now that November is approaching, a.k.a is NaNoWriMo [link] time and I got free evenings I thought about writing a bit about planning.

A while back I talked about mindmapping [link] and how I found it useful for allocating (is this mainstream word too, or just nerdy word?) and organizing a great deal of information in the same place. However, when planning something bigger, it might not be enough.

The first thing I need is a premise, or a seed. That can be anything, whether a scene, a situation or a character, sometimes even the ending of a story, sometimes just the beginning. The premise has to be, of course, expanded. If you have read the excerpt of The Shikigami of Life [link], the scene that shows in the Prologue, Nao strangling Takuma, was the only premise for the whole story.

Once the premise is set I start turning it in my head, and it fleshes out until I got a rough idea of what I am going to do, or so would be the idea… I am guilty of just starting writing without much idea of what was going to happen, just make a rough graph and type away. Anyway, when working on a complex, long story, what I try to do is organize a scheme. That gives me both a plot line to follow and also helps me keep the structure (e.g., for the Osaka Guardians, 1000 words per scene, 3 scenes per chapter; the prologue scene belongs to the middle chapter; there’s a chapter 0 of descriptions). It also helps not to forget about the important information that I need later on to give coherence to the plot twists, since they’re supposed to be a surprise for the reader, but I should know what is going on. Right now my outline for this NaNo, The Shikigami of Trust is about 2300 words vs. an estimated of 65000.

Something else I do around this stage is flesh out the secondary characters by dragging up their names. Though in the scheme, they are just… for instance ‘American-Ox Guy’, all the characters that have been thought up at this stage are named. It speeds up the process of writing and does not break the flow to have to name a character in the middle of a scene (see? Back to the mindmapping and my intel XD).

Research takes a good deal of the planning stage. It might be something simple as ‘what is the sport team in Honolulu’ to a ton of information, like reading through Nevada’s gaming and employment laws. Research does not only make the story more accurate, it helps its development. Most of the time research helps me round up the details of a story to give it a more wholesome feeling (sheesh, I’m abusing the word XD). Related, sometimes it is good to delve into your own world: mapping and drawing always comes handy – even if you’re not good at it, it helps describe something when you need to.

Usually when I use the planning scheme I have a complete outline by the time I start writing, I especially use that on the Osaka Guardians because the books are linked and I need to keep a general timeline that they all share. Sometimes, however, I just outline the main hits that had to happen and… improvise.

Because down in the end, it would be no fun if everything worked like in the outline. Once you start writing and the characters take over any and everything can happen… especially if there’s an Okonogi involved.

P.S.: The Adventure Writers’ Competition is still up and running. You can vote for RETRIEVER here =D [link]. I promise a signed copy of the book if you go vote and it gets published out of this ^^


2 responses to “Planning (a.k.a. musings in pre-NaNoLand)

  1. Paddy October 21, 2011 at 16:38

    Allocate is a business word, used primarily with regards to resources. This was interesting to read especially since it does not work quite like that for me.

    I will hold you on that promise.

    • Sakaki Delijah October 24, 2011 at 11:07

      In geekspeak, allocate means saving up a batch of virtual memory to put a variable into so the code runs faster XD

      Well, call it premise, call it plits?

      XDD yeah, you’d be the one to do that