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Friday, 12 August 2011

How Creative Should You Be When Planning Out Your Book?

When it comes to planning out your next book, should you lay everything down in fine detail? Is it a good idea to plan the exact number of words you're going to have in your introduction and first chapters, or is it better just to push any maps you may have out of your head and just go with the flow?

I can see the benefits of doing things both ways. For my first book I didn't really plan anything out at all, I just had a diary that I was going to rewrite. I was seeing where it would take me, and just hopefully go with the flow. But here lies the problem. If you've haven't got any boundaries, how will you know when you've overstepped them? You might want to write eighty thousand words for your entire book but find you've already typed out forty, and that's just your introduction and first chapter!

When I was writing my first book I went down this path. I didn't over write things, it was more the case of under writing. I was half way through my book when I thought I would do a quick word count, and to my horror, I realised I had only typed out twenty thousand words. Once I had gotten over the initial panic, I decided to treat my manuscript just as a first draft which I could pad out at a later stage. I've since learned this is what most writers do, and it is very common just to write out a first draft before you flesh it out. I find you also gain more control when you follow this method because once you've read your first draft through, you often have an entirely different perspective.

Now that I am writing my second book I want to do things differently. I've written up an entire plan of where I want my work to go, and I have so far found this helpful. I find working within boundaries often gives you a chance to implement more structure to your work - it forces you to think about it more. Writing memoirs is like writing fiction, so even though I am writing about real life events, I have to consider the rules for fiction. I also have to consider the boring events and what my readers would most like to read. I have to face up to the reality that no one is going to find my entire life interesting, so I have to keep my stories fast paced.

Of course, you don't want to follow a set plan that disables your creativity. You have to have room to let your creative thoughts flow, otherwise they'll have nowhere to go and your book will be stifled. It's all about getting the balance right.

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