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Planning Process: Fill Up the Blank Space with Ideas

The planning process for a book is probably as individual as different people's wardrobes. How, when, and where varies author by author. For instance, I plan and write best in absolute silence and with a hot cup of coffee beside me. Sometimes, I brainstorm ideas into my Notes app on my phone lying in bed while everyone else is asleep. When planning, I like writing my ideas on paper before ever opening my laptop. Yet there are some common activities that most writers probably tackle before beginning to type their manuscript. If not, they may find themselves staring at a blank screen or piece of paper for a very long time.


Coming up with an idea is the first step to writing anything. You sit there in front of your computer or over a notebook and wonder what you have to say to world. I like to use this time to focus on three important aspects of the manuscript planning process. First, I cluster ideas about characters or plot. Who do I want to write about? What types of situations are important or interesting?


Once I have a few ideas and have branched off into various subtopics, I work on the characters. I decide which type of personality I want to give my characters. This won't be an in depth character analysis (that will come later) but simply getting the gist of what each character is like. Think of it as a superficial stereotype that will later be developed into a round, realistic character. Who or what will be the antagonist, or the character or force which opposes my main character? Sometimes, I don't yet know my antagonist, and that's okay, but it's worth asking at this point.


Third, I ask myself the "what if" questions to examine possible scenarios I could put these characters into that are out of the ordinary. No one really wants to read about the average day of a high school teacher. What if she arrives at school in the morning and all the lights are out and the doors are locked? What happened there? Was there a memo she missed? Is it even a school day? Did something bad happen there early that morning that they made them cancel school over? Now, we have an interesting start to a possible plot, a complication that can take us somewhere other than the average teaching day. Or what if as she's driving to work, she sees her turn but decides to keep driving instead. Where is she going? What makes her want to forget her obligations and keep driving? Will she get in trouble for not reporting to work?


Planning is just the beginning, of course, the gathering of ingredients with which to bake your tasty treats. Grab the wrong ingredients in haste or add the wrong amount of something, and it's all bound to fall part or taste awful. Once you've finished your masterpiece and sent it off to be judged by publishers, you should already be in the planning stage for your next work. Always be productive. Always be working on your craft.


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