Blogging Circle: Overplanning
Over planning a story is something I am very familiar with.
In high school, I used to be a part of an online role playing game. It was fun and it was an outlet for my creative writing. I had a great character, and somewhere during my sophomore year, I decided I wanted to give this character her own novel.
During this time I was also reading a lot of high fantasy (Lord of the Rings where the big “it” movies and my obsession with all things Harry Potter was just beginning), so it seemed natural that I would take a character from a fantasy RP and create an epic fantasy around her.
But I wanted to do this “right”. Meaning, I was naive enough to believe that I could write something as awesome as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Black Jewels and all the other fantasy books I was reading..in ONE draft.
Yea, that’s right. I thought I could write this character’s story in one draft and have it be perfect.
I knew that to make the story as brilliant on paper as it was in my head, I needed to plan and get organized. I literally spent YEARS planning this novel. I had/still have very detailed world maps, each one slightly more elaborate than the last. I had/still have entire notebooks filled with character sketches, right down to the most minute/unimportant characters. I mean, I was giving back story to simple shopkeepers that would only appear in a scene, maybe two. I had family trees drawn out, histories of the world I was creating, laws, religions, etc.
This word I created, Aeyni, was planned down to the flora and fauna.
And this was just world building.
I had another seperate notebook filled with plot points and things I wanted to happen in the story. Yea, me, the notorious pantser, was a Queen of Plotting. The only problem was in the years I spent planning and plotting this story, I never actually wrote any of it. I’d start to, but then half way through the page realized that I’d forgotten to “research” something “important” — like what I wanted to name the river that went from one city to the next or what I was going to call the mountain range up north.
Looking back, I believe that after all the planning and note-taking I did, I became afraid to write the story.
I was so focused on making it perfect, that I became afraid.
A lot of writers, I think, are perfectionists, and when we overplan a novel that we’re excited about, we start to focus more on making the story perfect and less on writing the story. The more you plan and plot without writing, the more you’re going to feel as though some key element in your story is missing. You’ll begin to be afraid of writing your own story.
And while plotting and planning have their purpose, it’s easy to a place where plotting and planning take over and the story is lost in notes, despite how detailed everything is laid out. I ended up losing that story, and it wasn’t until just a few months ago that I found a notebook filled with all the notes that I thought I’d take a chance at rewriting it.
Because I still see it as being an epic fantasy, I’m reworking some of the notes to work for how I see the story now (which is a little different than what I saw back then), but I’m also writing scenes as they come to me.
When I write now, I tend to just write by the seat of my pants. I don’t want to chance that I’ll over-plan and lose the story again. When I get stuck, I’ll plan and plot for a little while, but I’ll still write.
So if you’re a plotter, plan and plot all you want, but remember to write the story too. Don’t over-plan, you just may find yourself afraid of your own story if you do.