Planning. It seems like a simple, basic word right? I find, for me anyway, that it’s anything but. I can’t just plan.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried. A lot! In fact with each new venture I try to plan the process of development. For some, like my novels, I do try to lay out the story scene by scene, synopsis by synopsis. Sometimes I get pretty damn far through the process. For example, Ancient Magic, my story about monsters. I can honestly and proudly say that I have the whole damn thing planned from beginning to end. Even wrote them up on nifty cards that I can flip through, number and color coded (due to having three primary story lines to follow depending on chapter, location, and general mayhem). I was quite proud of myself because I finally planned a novel!
Yay! Go me!
The problem is that once I started writing while the plan was nifty, somehow or another, it gets thrown to the wayside. Nope, no sarcasm in that for your viewing pleasure. I have the cards, each time I plan (there’s that word again) to write on Ancient Magic I even pull it plus the reference notebook out. I pull up the chapter, read the last paragraph or two to get my thoughts and emotions on the right track then off I go.
An hour and a half later I sit back, thrilled at my progress of 1000+ words that are actually, in my humble opinion, pretty damn good for the story. I sigh, read through it again, nod and make sure it’s saved before closing it down then look to my left (I can never have my stuff on my right, don’t know why but it throws me off when I write) and realize that my cards are still on the scene I bypassed an hour ago because the book decided that staying with Frank was much better than returning to Mason.
Well, there went that idea…again!
The thing is, and this is what really bugs the hell out of me, is that after over 10 years of honing my craft, devouring every book of quality about the subject of writing, I still feel as if because I’m not following the “standard operating procedure” (sue me, I’m prior military married to a military man) I have this worm of doubt in my noggin saying “You’re doing it wrong, numb skull. You have to plan then execute.”
… And yes, I do call myself numb skull sometimes so let it go…
The wiser, more in tuned with who I am part of me does its best to shrug off this annoying voice by saying, “Well, this is how you write. You follow the chain, let it flow the way it’s suppose to. SO WHAT if it’s not how the experts say to do it? You’re different, unique…”
My answer: “Yep, just like everyone else!”
But let me follow-up on that thought for a second…no, not the sarcastic bit, the other part… While I respect the experts, and I truly do, I sometimes think that reading all their wonderful wisdom has been a double edge sword. By this I mean that they have helped me haggle my way through trying to develop plot twists, the annoying grammar rules that novels have which is so different from general speaking grammar, and even my character developmental faux paus, their insistent demand of story development tends to cause my internal voices to turn traitor on me. Bad enough I talk to my characters as if they are real people, but when they start yelling at me for not obeying them as opposed to following ‘the rules’ of development it’s enough to cause a nervous breakdown!
And, for the record, I’m not the only writer who talks to their characters! For your viewing pleasure I direct you to Laurell K Hamilton, who has admitted as much in her books, and Mary Balogh who has done the same so THERE!
I also know that I’m not the only person to struggle against the edges of the sword from either side, be it from those I know personally or those who have admitted it on their blogs. I, myself, have even mentioned that there is no such thing as the quick fix novel-writing formula in another blog post. To be completely truthful, I’m glad there isn’t a guaranteed formula for stories because then we’d all sound the same. Where is the fun in that I ask you???
What I find to be truly hilarious about this whole thing in a sardonic type of way is that despite knowing what works for me in relation to development I still try to plan my stories.
Irony, I know thy name!