While developing my Silent Hill story-line and characters further last night, I realised something very essential to my writing technique. I know novel planning is very much frowned upon by the brave souls that just write, based on an idea, and hope the story takes them somewhere. Yet, during my constructive meanderings and diverse planning structures, I came upon a revelation as to why I love it so much. Or perhaps more accurate, an epiphany.
The first few chapters of the novel were basically already planned out and structured in the sequence of actions that would occur. Then I went on to further character and location development, which also led to puzzle and item creation, when I decided that perhaps adding another character would add some excitement and thicken the plotline.
To my amazement, the addition of this character went from a good idea to an absolute necessity. I discovered that, after some heavy character construction and scene alterations, the new and improved plot could not survive without him in it anymore. Or at least, the story would be rather dull in comparison.
Unfortunately (or fortunately in my case), it meant changing the opening scene so much that it is no longer a facsimile of its original form. I am by no means disappointed or upset by this, as it changed the pace from a relaxed protagonist trying to determine what was calling him to Silent Hill, to an action-packed pace that leaves the protagonist and his new ally with no choice.
This change of events led me to dwelling on those writers I had met in my life who just write with no planning. Once again, I am not opposed to this form of writing and I have no antipathy towards these skilled soldiers of the pen / keyboard. Yet, many a times have I heard from them how a character or scene has led to a fundamental change to the plot, which irrevocably changed many other scenes. This frustration caused them to either postpone the writing to a future time, leave the new idea out altogether, or ended the writing of the novel altogether. When these fundamental changes occur during the planning stage, you simply need to restructure the chapter and scene development until you are satisfied that the change fits in well with the rest of the story.
Planning, of course, has some more benefits in this regard, compared to what I’ve by heard by these edge-of-their-pants writers. To determine if this significant change has any effect on your other scenes, you actually have to work through your whole book again. Now, if I had to work through everything I had written just to effect this new change, I would be devastated. However, with planning, I simply need to work through my development structures and formulas to insert the changes.
Which actually is the non-planned perfect segue for talking about my experience with Microsoft OneNote (ok, so not planning something can be pretty cool sometimes). I am so glad I discovered this program! It was sort of a “Hey, what is this?” moment. OneNote really gives me the ability to structure my various layers of novel development literally in one note. And because it is also available online, I can open and work on it anywhere on any platform… yes, even my phone.
It allows me to save various pages in my note, which means I can separate between my character development, scene selection, bestiary, etc. And since I can colour the various sections on my pages, I am able to maintain the golden (or red, blue, green) thread throughout.
Contrary to popular belief, planning a story does not mean that I lose the ability for spontaneity or disregarding a new idea because it was not part of the original plan. There are still times when characters will do something unusual, or not as you had detailed for them to be. The course of the story may take on a slightly different flavour, as long as it sticks to the original storyline and milestones. It’s the best of both worlds, and I definitely do not encouarage one without the other.
If you need assistance with planning and development of a story, give me a shout at email@example.com. In time you will learn that planning a story can be just as exciting for you as the writer as the anticipation and build-up for the book release is for the reader.
The Count of Celenic Earth