Planning, Plotting, and How in the hell am I going to write this novel?
I’m not quite a plotter. I don’t sit down to write a story with every single (or even any) nuance planned out. I may not even know my characters all that well. It’s kind of like a first date, only with death and mayhem as the evening’s opening events.
I can’t, however, just let the characters run wild on the page. Usually I have a vague notion about overarching storyline. For example, boy meets girl, girl has too much going on in her life to pay the boy any attention, boy and girl are drawn together by circumstances and mutual attraction, and BAM! (apologies to Emeril) It’s getting from the first scene to the BAM! that requires a little more than a wing and a prayer.
Usually, I have an outline of sorts. Not strictly a plot, more a to-do list in the approximate order I’d like to see things happen. I also do a minimalist character sheet for each of the main characters, nothing big and bad, just a quick ‘getting to know you’ overview. It makes it easier with those two things to deal with the occasional sidebars and plot bunnies that crop up while I’m working.
Once I’m done, I have a cadre of beta readers. I really cannot say enough about my friends who volunteer (have been conscripted) to read my stuff for content and holes. As it was explained to me, if you’ve been working on something for several weeks, you know how it’s supposed to go in your head, so any failures to convey that might go unnoticed since you already know how it’s supposed to happen. Beta readers give you help on everything from plot points, to character development, to setting. They are invaluable to making the story in your head match what’s on the page.
Writing for me is basically like a really good road trip: I know where I’m going, I have all the time in the world to get there, and I’m not going without my friends.