I’ve got a story idea up my sleeve that I want to spend the next month nutting out and preparing to write. The thing is, I’ve never been a planner. Even when I was little, typing 20 page stories after school, I never planned.
But I look into my crystal ball and see that my novel is going to a lot bigger than 20 pages. I’m going to have to plan it out. I’m new at this. Help.
Usually when I get an idea for a short story, I can see it’s bare bones and I flesh it out without really knowing what it’s going to be. There’s part of me that wants to keep this up, to know the basic idea and just run with it. In ‘On Writing’ Stephen King says,
“I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator but its first reader. And if i’m not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping my reader in a state of page-turning anxiety. And why worry about the ending anyway? Why be such a control freak? Sooner or later every story comes out somewhere”
which I think makes sense. I don’t want to be spend the next month pain-stakingly plotting out every single thing that’s going to happen in every single chapter. Why not let myself be surprised, why be a ‘control freak’ like Mr. King says?
Then when I’ve convinced myself to screw the plans and just get on with it, I find myself stuck. I don’t know what I’m doing. I get anxious. Do I really want this? Maybe I’ll just leave it for a while and think about it later. The lack of really knowing my characters, or the world I’m creating, is a problem. It scares the shit out of me to be honest.
So where’s the happy medium? If I plan too much I could get myself into a straight-jacket situation, where it’s so rigid that I have no room to move. On the other hand, I could plan too little, throw myself into the deep end and drown. Swimming lessons are important.