Planning and Research

Troyzan787

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How much planning and research do you put in before writing? I usually start with just a scene in my head, write it down then let it grow from there. However, I recently started working on a much larger project. That being said, what are some recommendations to keep everything together. I fear this will grow into something messy and not cohesive.

Thanks!
 

Bramandin

Science fiction fantasy
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I just have a million tabs open. I should probably make a pinterest board or something.

Oh, I do have a document that has a link to an inspiring location.

After as much time as I spent worldbuilding for my newest story, I'm not going to do so much next time. I'm just going to go in with a rough idea of their technology level and magic system as-needed as it comes up. Winging it worked last time I used that method.

Maybe you should look up how series bibles are made. My other thought is to do something that looks like a murder board.
 

DLCroix

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That is directly related to the premise of the story. Because if you don't know what this is about, what happens is that your brain won't know which creative process to focus on. That is, you must guide your creativity. So, once you know what the driving idea of your story is, all the work will be easier too. For example, if you want to write a story about Cossacks, I would obviously advise you to research the subject, but it is much faster than groping around in the dark without knowing exactly where you are going.

The second principle is that the psychology of your characters is always more important than what they are wearing or the environment in which they will act. But this psychology in some cases is defined by their customs and beliefs. For example, a Cossack will not think or act the same as a Hussar, a Cheyenne or a space pilot. That is why it is important to first define the premise of your story because from there you will know what to look for. Also, the more you get to know your characters, the more easily you will be able to identify what real problems can seriously affect them and it is even likely that you will find a much better premise than the one you already had. :ninja:
 

Wayne Mack

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This gets into the (endless) discussion of planners versus pantsers. I fall more into the latter category and I don't have an end in mind until about the one-third point of the story. By this time, I have established the characters and built in enough plot points and constraints that I am forced into a general conclusion. Each additional chapter builds in more restrictions or capabilities to be utilized until I am forced into a logical result. I don't have the climatic scene fully envisioned until quite late in my writing process.

I know there are others who advise to create the conclusion first and then write to force that conclusion. At my current ability, I can't imagine defining the end first. Somehow, it feels like losing all of the interesting discovery of the characters and situation while writing. I remain intrigued by those who can actually plan out a novel, but I am befuddled about how I would be able to do it.
 

Laura R Hepworth

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Planning, very little. Usually none really as I'm a complete pantser. I get the barest seed of an idea an then just start writing. As for research, I do that as I write. Sometimes, that might mean doing a little bit of research at the very start before I'm too far into the writing, other times (most times) it comes much later as I approach something that I need more info on in order to write it well. This keeps me from falling into the trap of thinking I have to have everything researched before I start writing. Which, would actually be pretty impossible as a pantser seeing as I don't know what all I need to research until I'm at that point in the story.

For organizing thoughts while I write, I keep a writing journal, a separate notes/research file for each book, and make a bookmarks folder in my browser to save sites I may need to refer back to for research info.
 

Troyzan787

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This gets into the (endless) discussion of planners versus pantsers. I fall more into the latter category and I don't have an end in mind until about the one-third point of the story. By this time, I have established the characters and built in enough plot points and constraints that I am forced into a general conclusion. Each additional chapter builds in more restrictions or capabilities to be utilized until I am forced into a logical result. I don't have the climatic scene fully envisioned until quite late in my writing process.

I know there are others who advise to create the conclusion first and then write to force that conclusion. At my current ability, I can't imagine defining the end first. Somehow, it feels like losing all of the interesting discovery of the characters and situation while writing. I remain intrigued by those who can actually plan out a novel, but I am befuddled about how I would be able to do it.
This is definitely more of my approach as well, so it feels good that I am not alone. I had been seeing a lot more talk from the Planners and it made me think I was on the wrong path and not doing enough. I like the feeling of discovery as well. I think if I incorporate some of what DLCroix mentioned above will at least help keep me on the rails but still experience the discovery aspect.
 

AnyaKimlin

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For a novel usually not much planning goes into it. With a world I am creating myself there isn't much a quick Google search can't answer. I just write a first draft and then see what I need to know. Then I research and write a second draft, tweaking anything I have to. I have started with an opening line or a character's name or with one book a minor character from another story.

However, my current work is a bit like the TV show Frankenstein Chronicles but set in the same year in the NE Scotland (right after a Biblical style flood when five rivers burst their banks). I was fascinated to discover that our tiny town had an organised, paid for by local government police force long before London did, but Glasgow was also much earlier than London. I was also interested that Aberdeen had taken techniques from Edinburgh and by 1820s was becoming more forensic in their investigations. I figured a prisoner transfer and a conversation over a beer would be enough to bring the techniques back to Moray where it is set. I also couldn't resist adding witches, anatomists and electricity (experiments were done here really early on). Because we still have a lot of witches here, I wanted to be faithful to their beliefs so I researched the local covens over the time.

Any historical story involves some basic research before I can even guess at how to lay out the story. I was lucky with this one in that a gentleman had written a detailed acccount of the floods in 1832 and a local historian had already done a lot of the work for me in terms of what the town looked like. I just needed to read two books and watch an episode of History Cold Case (had an episode with an anatomist's speciman from the same time period). I have pantsed the plot but the whole plot appeared in my head really early on this time. For the next draft I do need an old map of the town but I wrote it during lockdown so archive access wasn't easy. One advantage of where I live is that it has been forgotten historically so a lot of the documents are still available locally rather than in the national archives.

For scripts I use a whiteboard and post-tik notes to make a fluid storyboard. There's not really enough room in 30. 60. 90 pages to pants a story so I plan and research as much as I can before starting.

The most useful thing I find for keeping my ideas in order are scrapbooks with Google images and "casting" my characters with someone who has a major YouTube presence. It means most of what I need for the story stays in my head.
 
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Steve Harrison

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I plan in my head until I have a beginning (which might change), a few stepping stone scenes and solid ending to write towards, then I can start writing the novel and the characters turn up. This process can take months or years. My WIP has been simmering in my head since the 1980s.

I don't do any research while writing and rely on my general knowledge. This often proves faulty, but I figure it's easier to manipulate my errors during editing than risk accuracy spoiling my initial intentions.
 

Lumens

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I'm constantly researching, as in learning new things from various sources like documentaries, non fiction books, blogs and articles online, friends, etc etc. I don't end up using it all, by a long shot. You could say that my research is a bit like my writing.
 

DLCroix

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Regarding the planning, when I drew comic books, I used to make the script of a story thinking if it was going to be 32, 48 or 64 pages, but even with that planning, I ended up adding pages in certain sections or chapters, for which, now in In terms of literature, I learned to do light planning, since the possibility of editing numerous drafts after the first one, in effect, allows you to make those changes. But even so, I like to work with a rough idea of both the premise and more or less what the end of the story is. Where I apply the pants aspect when writing is how I link one point to another. In fact, I usually work with many folders of images, so, suppose I start a chapter on Sunday the 14th: then it is very likely that in the search engine of a certain folder I will simply look the number 14 to which images it leads. That is to say, I know where I have to go, but in the way I do it, I absolutely apply chaos theory. This means that sometimes my characters are very disadvantaged against their opponents and other times better. But so far it is the most unpredictable system (more or less as life itself should be) through which, even having a previous scheme, but flexible, also allows me to surprise myself with the plot twists that I find along the way. :ninja:
 

Troyzan787

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I absolutely apply chaos theory. This means that sometimes my characters are very disadvantaged against their opponents and other times better. But so far it is the most unpredictable system (more or less as life itself should be) through which, even having a previous scheme, but flexible, also allows me to surprise myself with the plot twists that I find along the way. :ninja:
I like this a lot. Keeping a swinging power balance is something I am trying to maintain. I don't want any conflict to feel unnatural. So allowing chaos theory to do its thing seems like a great way to achieve that.
 

Anne Martin

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Planning vs Pantsing? I think there is a sliding scale. I pants the beginning and plan the rest, but I don't write all of the planning down, so to an outsider, it might look like I've pantsed it all the way through. For me, too much planning often means that the less important bits aren't as well written as the high plot points. Several times I've have skipped sections because "I know what is in them," only to find out later that it was just the opposite. If the story requires research, I often do some initial groundwork and additional work as needed.
 

sknox

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It might be worth considering how you decide when enough is enough. That is, behind the question "how much research do you do" is the question of how do you decide when it's time to start writing. I think that's the more pragmatic way to pose the question.

The first aspect that will leap out is that one never really stops researching. It's more a case of one begins to write and this activity gets interwoven between spells of researching. And spells of grumbling and spells of procrastination.

I don't think I've ever had a moment when I said to myself (there being no one else around to hear), that's enough research, I guess I'll write my first sentence. It's nowhere near that rational a moment.

The beginning of writing often comes in through a side door. I usually start with notes of some sort, writing down ideas, thoughts, fragments about characters or setting or plot. Somewhere in there, quite unpredictably, bits of dialog appear. That's usually my first "writing" -- dialog. If it's not that, then it's a bit of scene setting, some description, like the opening shot of a movie.

There really is nothing in the research process that initiates any of that. Research tends to produce stuff much further in the background (unless it's researching names for characters and places). If there's any sort of launching done, it's got more to do with quality than quantity. That is, it's not about how much research I do, it's about that one bit of information that catches my fancy and I go more or less directly from research to writing. Doesn't happen that often, but it does happen.

I note that all the above has to do with research. Planning is a different sort of activity and would require a different sort of reply.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I used to start out with a general idea but almost no planning, but ever since I sold my first book and my editor asked for an outline for the next two (with the offer of a two-book deal possibly on the table I was definitely not going to refuse to do what she asked!) and I learned the value of planning, I started doing a lot of planning in advance, mostly just as a way to generate ideas. However, I have never felt the need to stick to the plan if better ideas come up during the writing (which they often do). As I write, I may change the plan often (or, again, I may not), or make up new plans as I go along and write them up so I don't forget them—nevertheless, those plans may or may not make it into the book either. Ultimately, somewhere close to the end, all the different ideas and plans begin to fall together, and I realize that none of it was wasted effort and it is all a vital part of my process.

And it is much the same with research: I do some in advance, but also do more, intermittently, as I write. The advance research inspires ideas, and the research as I go along helps me work out problems that have come up, or just gives me something useful to do during temporary blocks. I keep notes on my research because I know that even though some of the best bits may never make it into the current story or series, they very well might inspire something for a later story. So I never know when I am researching whether I am doing it for the book I am writing, or for something I may write in the future.
 

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