Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hmmmm. Planning you say?

There is a very undervalued stage in writing--the planning stage. I sometimes think writer's block, that point when you stare at the screen in blank horror, could be blamed on underplanning.

I'm not talking about outlines or the storyline here. I'm talking about the general setting for the book and the required research. In my case, when I come up with an idea for a book, the first thing I do is delve into various backgrounds and scenarios before I settle on one for the book.

Now, there are a lot of authors who think I'm wrong. They don't see the value in the pre-planning and think it's a waste of time. Perhaps for them, this is true. After all, everyone has their own working style. I do know I have a very difficult time writing (or completing) a book when I don't feel comfortable with my pre-planning.

In that pre-planning, I may even run across an unusual or unique idea I can incorporate in the book. Perhaps there's something that will add a neat twist to the story. They say there are no new story ideas--only unique ways of telling the stories.

I submit the well of ideas must be replenished on a regular basis. My pre-planning stage is when I add to my store of odd facts and ideas for the well. I find the best way to do so is surf the Internet, reading those articles and websites that catch my attention. Frankly, if I'm not interested in the subject myself, how can I expect someone else to be interested?

Where would we be without the Internet? No matter what subject, we can find something about it. I add a caution here--just because it's on the Internet doesn't necessarily mean it's true. If something captures your attention, don't settle on the first sighting. Run that idea down until you're sure of the facts. Then if you decide to give it your own unique twist, you'll have a basis for that.

Oh, yeah. We sometimes forget there are print books out there with a host of ideas that may not be available on the Internet. My print book library is about four thousand strong. It includes over fifty cookbooks--some of them vintage cookbooks. Need an authentic meal for a historical setting? It's probably in there. There are books about how to hunt, field dress and butcher an animal. How to weave a basket. How to make a pottery bowl.

And there are human resources. I had a fascinating discussion with a young man at a Bass Pro shop. He was recently retired from the military. We chatted about detonators, det cord, and blasting caps. When I hauled out my notepad to make notes, he even drew pictures. First-hand experience and knowledge is far more valuable than something acquired from a secondary source. He gave me invaluable suggestions for follow-up research.

What part did this have in my book? About three paragraphs. But I have the satisfaction of knowing the dialogue and descriptions are correct. And in our conversation, I also discovered another idea I had was untenable. So that information saved me from making a mistake.

What about you? Do you plan ahead? Look up stuff as needed? What's your style?



  1. Ok..I am a new writer. So I have no style yet.
    I started writing about things I thought I knew about. boy was I wrong!
    I learned in the last week or so.. research, plan, outline, research more, etc etc..

    I would be nowhere without google!

  2. Congratulations, Sugar! Keep at it. It is amazing what we don't know. The more I write, the more I discover I have to research.

    Last week, I polled several fellows to find out what they carry in their pockets. Every guy had a different list.

    Also asked my step-grandson about pistols that can be disassembled and hidden. Interesting conversation.

  3. I write whatever my characters tell me to write. I let all the planning to them though I will occasionally research things as we go if they instruct me to.

  4. OMG! It's my Oreo! I didn't know he was moonlighting as a model:)

    For me, it depends on the story. Right now, yes I'm doing extensive research, as my story idea posed a situation I know nothing about. And I don't want to get mail saying I don't know what I'm talking about, so I research. Thank God for the Internet AND Discovery Channel, LOL:)