Planning Ahead

A discussion on whether planning ahead benefits the writing process.

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How soon in our story should we know what the ending is? I am consistently amazed by authors who state that they know where the story will end before they have even committed a single word to the page. J K Rowling, of course, famously knew the ending of the entire seven-book series before she even finished the first one. Given the twists and turns within the story, she would have had to, I guess.

For that type of author, the fear factor of allowing their imagination to run riot whilst they are writing the story could possibly make their head explode. It requires a singular level of something to brave a storyline without knowing the ending; working on a story like that requires innumerable rewrites and changes of entire sections in order to make it work. Later sections can supersede earlier ones, and you could end up—if you weren’t careful—with three versions of the same character evolving across the page as you watch in real time.

Sometimes, names, gender, and ethnicity change as well.

But still, that’s exciting to that kind of writer; it can be endlessly fascinating to watch the first draft of your story—and, potentially, your second draft as well—rolling across the page in glorious technicolour that mutates and changes shape. If you capture that energy, and watch carefully as it breaks and smashes against the barriers of your imagination, these early drafts give you the guidance as to what works, what doesn’t work, and what could work if only things fitted in a different order.

Having the creative burst at the beginning and using the actual writing process as a mere functionary tool to get down what you have already conceived is entirely fine. You have still conquered the fear of the white page by coming up with the proof of concept, and so this allows you to structure your work effectively.

But there can be an allure to flying close to the wind, thoroughly enjoying the mania that comes with going back to the previous chapter three times because you’ve changed the main character’s eye colour three times, and that has an impact on the meaning of some deep and meaningful discussion you held earlier on in the book.

I don’t know. I quite like experimenting as the panic sets in.

Thanet-based author Matthew has three novels published by Inspired Quill, is an inveterate blogger, and writing is his passion.

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