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How I plan

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The truth is, I’m not much of a planner.

I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal.

I think I’m too impatient for planning most of the time and sometimes it’s gotten me into trouble, other times it’s led me on the greatest adventures of my life.  I flew to England a while back with the single goal of going to Stonehenge for the summer solstice and the rest I left up to the winds of fate.  I ended up living in Brighton, making friends and hitchhiking around Europe.  Hooray for no plans.

When it comes to writing I have difficulty planning as well.  Having a vague idea for a story constitutes a plan for me.

My most recent completed novel (in beta reading now) started out as an idea and I didn’t really start plotting until later when events unfolded that needed to be explored.  It was an adventure to be sure, but still a little unnerving as it left me wondering, is this going to work?  As it turned out it did (at least Ben and I think so, we’ll see what other people have to say), but after that writing free-for-all I thought it might be a good idea to try the next book with an actual, full out plan.
Ben and I started that process yesterday.  After a bumpy start (sitting there staring at each other), we went for a walk (apparently the only way we can actually think) and worked out some ideas.

So here’s how the planning is going so far:

Step 1: Idea – the idea for the book came from a short story I wrote (which is how it seems to go for me) and I told Ben.  Ben said…‘hmmm…interesting….’ and off we went.

Step 2: How to plan as we’ve never officially done this we had to work out how to plan, which basically consisted of a discussion about the best way to approach the idea.

Step 3: Characters/research – as many of the characters are based on gods of various pantheons we had to do some research, so we spent some time on good old Wikipedia.

Step 4: Define characters – as this more of a character study than an adventure, the characters seemed more important than the plot.  The plan is to create the plot around the characters but first they all need names, backstory etc…

Step 5: Define the world – as the world has limitations we needed to make some decisions about what it is and how it operates.

Some basic ideas about all of the above is as far as we’ve gotten, but it seems to be going well.  The next steps will involve plotting and more fleshing out of the backstories so that they connect with the main plot and create a little drama.

Ben is perfect for me for a million reasons and one of them happens to be that he loves plotting and planning stuff like this.  We’re essentially planning the story like it’s a D&D game, but instead of playing it, I’ll be writing it.  Personally, I love the writing part most, making the words go together and sound beautiful and interesting and meaningful.  I like to live in the now, minute by minute.  He’s a bigger picture kind of guy which works for me perfectly, because without him, I’d probably just write a lot of rambling novels.

So planning.  I’m still trying to work it out, but it seems to be going well and I know the more we plan now, the smoother the process of writing will be and that will make it even more fun in the long run.

How do you plan?  Have any hints or tricks you use to plan effectively?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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The Plague of Backstory

I shudder when I hear the term ‘world building’.

It makes me think of people sitting there for weeks, months, years, plotting every minute detail of their story universe and the thought of it just makes me itchy.

I know it’s integral to a lot of speculative fiction writing, but whenever people talk about it I wanna grab an umbrella to prepare for a deluge of backstory.

I’m not saying backstory is bad by any means, but I am most certainly the kind of person who gets bored of it really easily.  The Silmarillion, for example, has been sitting on my shelf for ages, half read because I just can’t bring myself to trudge through it.  Tolkien’s writing is stunning sometimes, but the backstory reads like a text book and I left school long ago.

So you want to write a story that’s full of backstory and myth and history?  I get it, some people like that kind of thing.  Maybe I’m not your ideal reader and that’s cool, but if you want your book to appeal to a wider swath of speculative fiction fans (or people like me who get bored of detailed histories) I can offer my thoughts on backstory and how to keep it from spreading like the plague that rocked your fantasy world thirteen centuries ago and caused lasting devastation.

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Sprinkle don’t pour

The info dump is my worst enemy.  Thick, meaty paragraphs of history about the world with no break for action or dialogue.  I’m here for the story, not the history lesson.  Please keep it minimal, sprinkle, don’t pour.

In the beginning

In the beginning you want to keep it especially light because I want to head right into the story and learn about the backstory once I’m invested.  If I don’t have a reason to care and you dump backstory on me, it’s likely I’ll just cut my losses and leave your book on the shelf next to The Silmarillion.

No info dumps in dialogue

Usually people don’t sit around and tell each other tales of history (unless it’s a bard and then it’d better be funny).  They don’t spew out whole massive stories in one breath and even if they do, people don’t really want to listen.  Keep your dialogue minimal and realistic and save the backstory for small sprinkles in the text.

Choose carefully

Is it really relevant that nine hundred years ago there was a battle between two warring tribes somewhere on a far continent?  Do we really need to know every detail about the invention of the laser guns that are so prolific in your world?  You’ve worked hard on all the details, but that doesn’t mean that they are all relevant, or even interesting.  I want to know what I need to know for the story’s sake or for character building, not much more.

It’s about character & present story

Ultimately your story is about your characters and what happens to them.  Sometimes that may include a little context or history, but overall it should be present and future, not past or ancient history.

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It’s your world, you’ve poured all your blood, sweat and tears into it.  It’s awesome you’re having a good time, but at some point it’s time to administer the drugs and stop the plague of backstory before it takes over the entire universe.  Backstory and history are great things to add in sprinkles, but more than that and you’ve lost me.

Agree and have more tips on keeping it simple?

Hate me for saying you should cut down on your favorite part of writing?

Let me know!