Starting a writing project takes many forms. I generally start with a premise. I give it a working title and begin expanding the premise. I create characters, settings, and plot. I also consider how long the piece should be. I do a beat sheet to determine what I need in the case of each of those items.
I do character charts for each character in the story. I use a fifteen-part chart for each one that appears more than once. I make up incidental characters in passing as I write. I also do a background project sheet. I’ve talked about that before. That’s beyond the scope of this blog though. I do the basic character development, name, age, appearance, occupation, family and so on. I do that so I know my characters before I begin their story. It’s what works for me. I just find it easier to write the story if I get to know the characters first.
Once I have the characters, I figure out where the story will take place. I look at maps and floor plans. The setting is important too. The writing goes so much more smoothly if I know where I am when writing it. It’s just easier to get the characters to move through a landscape that feels real to me. So, I create some in advance of writing the story. So, I collect the maps and floor plans I need into a single folder. I do what I can to describe them as well, just a paragraph or two of description is enough. I can elaborate during the first draft if I need to. This is just an aid to my writing process.
Plotting comes next. I figure out what the scenes need to show and what order the events need to happen to make the story. I use a timeline to make sure the plot doesn’t get out of hand. I know some writers prefer to wing it. I do too, but I do recognize that I need some idea of where I’m going so that I can get there easily. So, I do some plotting ahead of time. The timeline just lets me do that without too much fuss. This is just what works for me. You may have a different process.
Another important part of planning a writing project is to determine how long the piece is going to be. Is the premise strong enough to make a novel? Or is it a novelette? Maybe it’s a short story. Often the plotting process gives me the answer to that question. Most of the time, you must wing it.
There’s a lot that goes into planning a writing project. Whether you put it down on paper or in an electronic file, or just keep it in your head. You do something of it. I use a broad outline, which gives me the freedom to let the characters do what they want, withing story reasons. It helps me in my writing to do this first. It might help you as well. Try it. You never know what you may discover.
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