Yesterday James threatened to do something on the topic of planning. Well, it’s past ten in the evening (over here where GMT was invented, thank you very much) and there’s still no sign of any post on his blog, so I shall take up the baton in order to steal his thunder and washing.
Planning the old novel / book thing – and please bear in mind that this is just what I do, and OK: I’ve got a lovely beard (is like a little bird, whrrroooo, whrrrooo), but it may not work for the smooth chinned. For Cold Granite I took a very precise approach to planning. I sat down and held various conversations with the voices in my head and ended up with a lot of little strips of paper that all had ‘something happening’ on them. Then I kinda shuffled them all into some sort of chronological order, taped them all together and thus produced the perfect plot plan. Of course, when I started writing I completely ignored the whole thing after little-bit-of-paper -number-four and started making stuff up. And OK, it kind of followed the sort of, vague pattern those little sticky strips had formed, but only at a distance and not paying that much attention. Stopping to play with a dead squirrel on the way.
But for book 2 I took a much more decisive and draconian approach: Project Plan. Yup, I defined my plot and timelines in terms of a GANTT chart (and the Mysterious D will know what I’m talking about here sad IT project management types that we are). Now technically this is the perfect plot planning medium: you define a number of events and string them together with dependencies. Like ‘Mr Frobisher gets stabbed’ followed by ‘Mr Frobisher gets a post mortem, but it doesn’t fit’ followed by ‘Mr Frobisher gets exhumed with a weasel…’ You can basically define all your separate plotlines as little chains of events and then line them all up and say, “But I want Nurse Emanuel’s surgical evacuation to happen between the stabbing of Mr Frobisher and the surprise discovery of a sharpened hamster in the vestry.” and the faithful old GANTT chart will slide everything out into the right place. Very useful.
Of course I then completely ignored all that, did a mind map on a big sheet of A4 and started writing. And within six sentences had invented a whole new crime to solve and a character who’d need some sort of resolution before the end. NONE OF WHICH was supposed to be there in the first place.
So as far as I can see, for me at least, planning is more about letting the voices in my head know the sort of thing I want to happen. Then they can get on with the important work of making up the lies while I drink endless cups of tea and wonder if Sooty could beat Basil Brush in a fist fight.
PLANNING: can’t beat it.