Some authors and poets get a golden nugget of an idea like a lightning bolt and are compelled to start writing. This might be an immediate response, or the idea may germinate for days, weeks, months or even years before any writing takes place.
I have heard writers say that the most exciting part of writing is not really knowing what is going to happen at the start of the process and that the characters can take a book and its author anywhere.
Whilst I agree with this, to an extent, I believe that even though we, as authors, can be suddenly hit with potential exciting developments whilst writing, it is we who invent and control our characters and our story, and we stand a better chance of seeing the journey through if we have an idea of where we are going prior to setting off.
The planning I do as a poet and a novelist and the planning I advocate as a creative writing teacher is to firstly ‘brainstorm’ an idea so the jumbled ideas become tangible and are less likely to be forgotten. There is then something to start moving around into an order and to be adding things to.
Whether your planning merely ‘scratches the surface’ of your book’s outline or goes as in depth as a chapter-by-chapter overview, it is a necessary part of ensuring completion through to the resolution. All novels are commenced full of enthusiasm and inspiration but as reality sets in and the realisation of the effort, commitment and hours is felt, our sense of direction can falter. We can wonder where we are going, what we are aiming towards and how we are going to get there. That’s before we think about how to get it published.
That is when we can refer to our plans. They are not set in stone, they can be rewritten, added to or have bits taken out. But they provide the skeleton of our novels. With them, we just must add flesh to the bones.
The same can be said for the writing of poetry. Whilst a seed of an idea may be planting its roots in your mind, it can be helpful to get the different fragments of the idea down onto the page before writing the poem itself. This list or mind map could consist of words you may use, whole lines or phrases, images or anything else you know you will want in your poem.
Again, if you know what you are setting out to achieve before you start the piece itself, your work is more likely to result in completion.
My creative writing courses online www.writeanovellinsixmonths.com and www.writeacollectionofpoetryinsixmonths.com strongly advocate and keep reverting to the planning process. I have seen great results borne out of detailed plans.