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How do you plan your stories?

Wynnara

Minstrel
I thought people might get a kick out of this. I know it gets a few raised eyebrows when visitors come into my home office.

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This is my five book series laid out on my wall in post-it notes. It's a method I kind of made up but I suspect it's influenced by my interest in animation and the way storyboard panels are often laid out on the wall during the writing process.

I'm very much a visual person and I like having a plan laid out large so I can move around it without having to flip pages. Each colour represents one of the major characters. Read horizontally you get the journey of one character through the novel and the entire series. Read each column vertically and you effectively get the plot... what each of the characters is doing or thinking at an approximate moment in time. There will be some overlap in terms of action--eg. two characters sharing the same space might have similar actions, but each character will have their own reaction to the events.

What I found by doing this... focusing almost entirely on what the characters are thinking and feeling... is that the plot kind of fell out naturally from how they reacted to what was going on.

Anyways, I'm curious to know if others plan their stories this obsessively or if you find your progress more fluid?


Oh, and Books 2-5 aren't actually shorter than Book 1, I just... err, ran out of wall space. :)
 
While I don't have a wall taken up with planning like this (mostly because I haven't got a wall to take up) I do have lots of word and pda files filled with plot data, timelines, dates, etc. My grasp on the later books is looser, but I still know roughly what's going to happen in each of them, if only on a broad level.

Love the setup. What do the different colours represent?
 

PrincessaMiranda

Troubadour
Wow, that's is pretty amazing. I've actually seen other authors do something similar to this, so you're not so strange after all. :) I would do this if I wasn't certain one of the insane children in this house would rip them down and eat them for lunch.

I like to make an outline ...usually... thought it gets tossed to the side and forgotten as I write. My process isn't quite fluid, I'd say more slushy... I try to have a rigid foundation but since my own nature is go-with-the-flow that doesn't last long.

I admire your organization!
 
Looks like a really fun level for a Super Mario game! I admit it is a very unique approach but in essence it's not really any different from keeping all your notes in a notepad or something. That's what I do; I have a binder for each novel. Sometimes while I am out and don't have access to my binders, I will text myself what it is that I think I should add or change.
 

Lorna

Inkling
I have my map in front of my lap top. Above it is my chapter outline.

When I was designing my world and plotting the whole arc of what I've decided now it going to be a trilogy I also had diagrams of the metaphysical structure of the world, tables of all the elementals and their human connections and outlines of the entire plot on my wall.

It's satisfying to have got to the point where I'm focusing on editing one novel. I know it and the world so damn well now (I've been working on the series for two years) that nearly everything is stored in my head. I like to think it seeped into my brain whilst I slept...
 

dannYves

Dreamer
Wow lol. I like that idea. I have a habit of just cluttering papers all over the place creating a mess. But this is actually not bad of an idea :) i may have to borrow it one day ;)~
 
Holy crap you are amazing!

I have a wall with post its and tacks and scribblings and so much more. The organization of your wall blows me away!

-_-

I try to keep everything organized lore-wise in my websites and OneNote notebooks, and I succeed pretty OK with that. For my book planning, I usually have typed up outlines, but I really like your method of showing where you are in the story and for which character.

One thing that I am reasonably proud of is my "Information Readers Know" document where I go through my stories and make sure I know exactly what the reader knows at what time period so that I am able to know in future books when they learned that and how much of a refresher they will need (or if I haven't introduced something yet at all).
 

Saigonnus

Auror
Generally I have a basic layout for the main plot... A to B to C etc.... in a file on my PC, but aside from that don't really plan anything at all when writing; and if I want to add a subplot or plot twist; no problem, it's fairly open to change. I feel for me it works better if I only have a basic idea of the plot and the world it's set in than having every tiny aspect of the story laid out and set in stone.
 
Oh, and Books 2-5 aren't actually shorter than Book 1, I just... err, ran out of wall space. :)

That's impressive! I don't have an uncluttered wall in my house big enough to do that with. ;)

That said, I wouldn't anyway; I keep things organized in text files on my computer. Physical layout of notes and stuff has never really worked for me.
 

Wynnara

Minstrel
Wow, that's is pretty amazing. I've actually seen other authors do something similar to this, so you're not so strange after all. :) I would do this if I wasn't certain one of the insane children in this house would rip them down and eat them for lunch.

I like to make an outline ...usually... thought it gets tossed to the side and forgotten as I write. My process isn't quite fluid, I'd say more slushy... I try to have a rigid foundation but since my own nature is go-with-the-flow that doesn't last long.

I admire your organization!

Heehee... a slushy creative process--I like it. :)

I will say though that the hyper-organization thing isn't always a benefit. You can spend a lot of time planning or re-writing outlines... or making a giant wall of post-its... and then not spend that time on actually getting the real words on the page. I think that's actually been a real problem for me in the past and the only way I've been able to push past it is to just set out designated chunks of time to just crank out pages.
 

Wynnara

Minstrel
One thing that I am reasonably proud of is my "Information Readers Know" document where I go through my stories and make sure I know exactly what the reader knows at what time period so that I am able to know in future books when they learned that and how much of a refresher they will need (or if I haven't introduced something yet at all).

I've never heard of this kind of document before although I can certainly see how it would be very valuable. I honestly don't know that I could separate that stream out in my head... what I as the reader know vs. what I as the author know... it seems very "meta"... although I don't think that's quite the right word for it.
 

PrincessaMiranda

Troubadour
Heehee... a slushy creative process--I like it. :)

I will say though that the hyper-organization thing isn't always a benefit. You can spend a lot of time planning or re-writing outlines... or making a giant wall of post-its... and then not spend that time on actually getting the real words on the page. I think that's actually been a real problem for me in the past and the only way I've been able to push past it is to just set out designated chunks of time to just crank out pages.

I have that problem, well similar. I try to set up time for myself to write, but I'm pretty ADD and anything distracting ruins the flow completely. Therefore I am a dammed up slushy lake. @[email protected] I wish I could crank out the pages. :( A house full of insane children (As I've mentioned before) is hard to deal with. I need my own space. Then maybe I could actually be more organized!

You gave me a good idea, so maybe Ill put my dry erase board to good use?
 

Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
I use electronic note cards, excel, to pretty much do what you're doing. I find it makes it so much easier to weave plots together and see how much story you've covered and how much there is to come. Also I find it makes it so much easier to add and delete things and change direction because you can literally see how changes will effect the overall story. And I totally agree, seeing the story as chunks makes the huge task of a book feel manageable.

I used to use real note cards and cork board, but couldn't fit everything onto the darn board.
 
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I've never heard of this kind of document before although I can certainly see how it would be very valuable. I honestly don't know that I could separate that stream out in my head... what I as the reader know vs. what I as the author know... it seems very "meta"... although I don't think that's quite the right word for it.

I think that "meta" is the word for it. I do not create it while I am writing, but rather during the proofreading/rewriting process after the story is complete (and preferably after some amount of time has passed and I have forgotten some of my biases towards the story). Then every time I come across something new, I incorporate it into the document. I am planning a 12 book series (1 down, 11 to go), so I definitely need this to keep track of everything.

The only issue is that I will get caught up in my novel or stories and start reading them all over again and forget to update the document -_-
 

sinner

Dreamer
I am so stealing your idea method!!!

how incredible is that!!

I mean, u have it looking so neat!

kudos, Chika! you have inspired a new way for me to organize my thoughts!

I have followed a process that has morphed through the years as my needs and resources have grown.

Before, I just wrote in notebooks, jotting all brainstorming random thoughts to get them out of my head and make room for more.

I used hundreds of pens and highlighters to code and organize as per chapter, character, importance and crossing out what I wasn't going to use but would be a good idea to keep for another possible story.

Now, I use openoffice writer, I wrote move, change text colors and highlight on the screen as I deem necessary, cutting on my use of sheets I had to flip through, which sometimes got ripped or ran out of space on and had to rewrite completely.

It has worked so far...still - like you - I am also a visual person and rather scatterbrained...So, I will probably find your method quiet helpful.

Thanks for sharing...and that pic? impressive!

Good luck on your books!
 
P.G. Wodehouse did something similar. He would stick typewritten pages on the wall, shuffle them around, make endless changes, and generally drive himself crazy. It worked. The editing part, I mean, not the driving himself crazy part.

For my part, I need some structure before I can start putting words in a row. Once I know who's in a scene and what they need to say & do, it's as good as done. Until then I fill in the blanks in my background, which sometimes is what's missing in the scene.
 
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I theortically have it all saved on word documents on my laptop, with the world planned in excruciating detail but the plot itself just plot points (I find I write better if i kninda know several main event but don't have everything to planned out) and ideas.

I say theoretically because I also keep myself surrounded by paper and have a habit of making notes there at stupid-o-clock in the morning, and showving them somewhere
 

Addison

Auror
I'm sort of....scatter-planned I guess. :p Usually I have the idea and just start writing. But if I get stuck then I go back and either outline, work out what ifs, do back story or get my own post-it-notes and start sticking them in a story arc. I have red for conflict, green for setting, yellow for characters (different stickers for different characters) Internal conflict, external, the antagonist's attempts and interaction between characters. After I have it all outlined I pull the wall hanging back over it. That way I can keep writing, the information still in my head but not leading my by the nose so I still have some wiggle room.
 
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