1) Create a premise, a couple characters, maybe some far-off setpieces to reach for.
2) Discovery write for a while to get a feel for the cast, the world, the style, all of that. Could be 5 chapters, could be 20. In the case of one certain fan fiction, it took about 80.
3) Figure out how the rest of this thing is going, and either plot the rest of it out based on what already exists, or scrap the current draft and start over fresh. With Systemless, I did the former, because I didn't do any outlining for the first 30-40 chapters. For my next upcoming book, I did the latter and helped myself lose some of the dumber elements that were weighing the story down early on.
My story started as a one off, but I got some immediate traction here and so I decided to expand it. It was by the seat of my pants at first, but now I have a firm grasp on where things are going, what the big events will be and how it will end. I don't worry too much about minutiae and just try to move things from point A to B with some character interactions sprinkled between and the spice of a random encounter here and there.
I have another story that's much better plotted and more focused, but even that has only the most general of outlines.
I have a pretty solid outline for my current novel and its two following novels. Large plot points are well-mapped until the end of my story, but smaller plot trails come spontaneously and are included as long as they don’t inhibit progression to the next large plot point.
I plan quite meticulously. There's still room to squeeze in a joke here or there or add a character who might be interesting, editing the roadmap is fine if I get the inspiration, but I prefer doing what I feel like at the moment. I don't like to feel stuck in "I have to do exactly this one thing because that's where I am in the project". Sometimes, I just want to dream up plots and mess around with joke ideas or dream up some tragic backstory or muse about some philosophical issue. So I do that. Sometimes, I don't have the mojo for that. I want to write. I want to turn what I've been dreaming about into reality, written in words. So then all I need to do is take all those plans I made and follow them.
I have chronic exhaustion and some burnout stuff, so I can't count on being able to just write whatever at any time. If I'm tired, it's good to not need to think so much. I can just pull up one of the plans I made when I had the energy to play and mess around, and then I just have to follow that plan and write. When I have energy, I could easily pants my way through a story. But over all, it's much more time effiient to squeeze in the plotting process into those 'windows' of time. When I'm tired, all I need to do is follow my pre-made plans and write.
That might mean to take time off a project because all the plotting for it is already done, but then I can just move on to the next thing and have a whole story ready and waiting to be written when I reach the end of my current project.
It depends on what you write. I do not plan almost at all, but I am on watch for getting into dead-end situations, if you write and read a lot you tend to know what setting will get you into big trouble, stuff like harem, overpowered MC, losing tension for too long etc. I am rather trying to not lose my perspective at the point where I am in the story, relations between entities and characters. You probably cannot write a masterpiece this way, but I want to have fun while writing, not make a stellar career as a writer and planning everything out would be a chore.
All the way to the end. I don't really plan to do things that way, it just happens. Everything in between is like a shifting collection of directions I need to put in the right order to get to that end, and that's the hard part.
Tinim Wrote: As the title says, how far do you plan ahead?
Do you have an overarching story or (only) plotpoints in mind that you try to reach? Maybe not even that?
If so, do you know how to reach them? Or do you only know that you want to reach them?
What about while writing a chapter. How much do you improvise on the spot?
I write what you would consider a back cover blurb, so it introduced the character and the conflict but gives no plot details for what's to come. I then use this blurb as a jumping off point and make it all up as I go without any planning. As long as what comes next conforms to the conflict set out in the blurb, it doesn't matter what I write.
When I work on longer fiction, I've tried the plotter, pantser, and the planter methods. Plotter novel drafts have lost my attention, or wind up too by the numbers and lifeless. Pantser works never get past the first few thousand words. I have more luck with planter, but I often need to heavily revise. So, when it comes to longer fiction I do a mixture of planning--coming up with general outlines or treatments--and planting-style writing with nothing more than a paragraph to summarize where I am and where I need to go. If inspiration strikes and I rapidly exit the highway through the weeds, I let it happen.
With short fiction, it's more of a mix of pantser and planter--I have an idea of where to start, or where to get to, but just let the unconscious speak in the moment as I write. This means I sometimes have to really heavily revise or rewrite (some scenes get redone three or four times from complete scratch!), but I generally like the feel of the short fiction work produced this way.
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