Friday, 23 July 2010

The different routes to planning.

The video related to this post can be found here.

When it comes to planning there are many different ways to do it; some people write thousands of pages meticulously panning, others just have the basic idea and wing it from there. I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle. The video above looks at some of the different method I've used and seen used when it comes to planning novels, short stories and even essays.

Here we're going to look at how the wonderful Rachel Mercaldo plans her work to offer you a better insight into how some writers plan.

Firstly, Rachel, thank you for agreeing to do this at such short notice. In general, do you think that planning is important?
Definitely. For some writers, "winging it" is as natural as breathing. But for others, like me, writing without a plan is like being lost in a maze. Our outlines are our maps.

If we focus first on your YA romance novel 'Virginity Thief', did you have a plan for it before you started writing?
Oh yes. I'm the type of writer who simply can't function without an outline. With The Virginity Thief, I had about 5 pages of outline. Every chapter was given a very detailed paragraph.

So, did you start out knowing exactly how many chapters you wanted to include?
I did. Of course, with editing and rewrites you add so many words, and you end up adding chapters. But in my outline (which was based on content, not word count) I had every single detail planned out.

I take it then that when you finished your writing it didn't exactly resemble the plan you started with?

Depends on what you mean by "finished." My first draft resembled my outline precisely, and at this point you have a problem. All the major plot points and scenes and characters are there, but one thing outlines don't have are transitions that fit exactly. I had to get Mari Abdo from the mall to the bowling alley but there was time in between. You realize that a scene could be added to strengthen her relationship with the love interest, or some such thing. And so you add and edit and rewrite.

And then of course you scored you're agent most awesome Natalie Fischer and you were given agent edits from her which changes it again.
Precisely. There is never a time when your book is perfect. Betas change it for the better, agents change it for the better, and eventually I hope to experience an editor changing it for the better.

Did all those changes take more planning or did you just wing it from the suggestion you were given?
Generally the changes weren't so major that I needed an outline. I would make notes to get things ordered in my mind. A lot of changes are "small" in that they only affect one scene (ie: the character's voice was off, or I'd suddenly start writing in present tense rather than past)

You are working on a new piece called I Get You, was your planning for that the same as for VT?
Pretty much. So much of IGY is character based, however. A lot of the planning is more "how much can I reveal of her true personality right now?" versus the romance of VT and the development of a relationship. I'm not saying that IGY has no romance. Not at all. The romance is simply less trouble to a perfectionist writer than the main character's secrets.

So, is outlining the only method of planning you use?
Mainly, yes. I do write synopses as well, but usually only as a first step to outlining.

Do you use the same method no matter what you're planning?
Yes. I outline even for short stories or school assignments.

Anything else you would like to add?
Just that what works for me doesn't necessarily work for other writers. Every writer should develop his or her own method as that is what will work best for them.

Thank you for your time Rachel, you have been awesome as always.

That last point Rachel made is very important. If I was asked about my planning my answers would be very different to Rachel's because I'm a very different person and I work in different ways. Find what works for you with planning and don't be afraid to experiment with it.


  1. Thank you for having me Fi, you're a great hostess!

    Now I want to ask you what your ways of planning are!

  2. That's for next week :)
    I kind of mix and match and seem to pick anew method for each project.