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To Plan or Not to Plan?
By Vanessa Finaughty


Some writers plan their novels or short stories before they write the first word, and some even write out full chapter plans (this happens, then that happens, and then the next thing happens, etc.). Other writers put together only a vague outline before they start writing, and still others do no planning at all. Then there are those who will use a mixture of these methods if it feels right for that particular story. Don’t let anyone tell you which of these (or other) methods you ‘should’ or ‘have to’ use.

When I first started writing, I used to plan everything, from a step by step list of what happened in each chapter to character sketches and world descriptions. I never finished anything writing that way. It was quite depressing to see other writers using this method so pedantically, until I discovered that there are other methods and that there is no rule that says you have to plan your stories. What works best for me is this: I start off with a visual of the first scene and write that scene. The rest flows from there with hardly any planning. I’ve finished novels with this method. Now, it seems easy. I’ve also discovered that, once you find the method that works best for you, other methods will become easier too – I’ve since written one novel on commission with the chapter by chapter planning method, and completed another novel I’d planned chapter by chapter years previously.

Not every method will work well (or at all) for every writer. It’s a very personal decision and, since everyone is different, each writer’s preferred method will differ. If you haven’t already discovered what works best for you, experiment with the various methods. Talk to other writers and ask what methods they use, then experiment with those methods too until you find the right one for you.


~ Extract from The Better Writing Guide.

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