How much do you plan/plot?

I was wondering how many people have a good idea what's going to happen with their serials? How much of the plot have you worked out ahead of time. Do you have scenes miles down the road in your head, or started? Plans for an ending?

I'm very much just making it up as I go along at the moment, and while it's fun to write like that, and I started the serial because it was fun, I worry things might get difficult to tie up neatly.

But is a serial fundamentally different in that it doesn't need to tie in neatly like a traditional novel?

I'm new, so I probably don't know what I'm talking about, but for Unbroken Chaos and Umbra, I planned out everything that happened (except the ending in Umbra; that just happened because I realized that there was really nowhere for the story to go, and once a government conspiracy got involved, it was over). However, all I'm planning for Schrodinger's Cat is a few very major, complete game-changing plot points, which are subject to change at any time, the ending(s, based on whether there's a season 2), and the number of episodes in the first season. Making things up as you go along can, in my experience, both help and hinder you in any form of writing; it can help because you might get an idea that, if you had everything planned out, might not fit into the story, but it can also hurt because, if you have no idea what you want to happen next, you could sit, staring at a blank screen, trying to move the story forward. I personally think that you should have the ending planned before you start, so that you can gradually arrive there rather than abruptly say, "'s over. You can go home now." I've read books like that, and couldn't stand them. However, if that's all you plan, then you will probably be able to get by if you've already been not planning for a while.

Curveball -- at least it's current arc -- is plotted in very broad strokes, but I have a rule that every issue has to have at least one thing in it that moves the story forward in some way. The Points Between is pretty solidly plotted, but it has two gaps in it that make me nervous.

I try to plan things out, but things seldom turn out the way I plan. Either I'll have a better idea by the time I get there, or the characters will make changes that screw up what I had in mind. One of my protagonists was meant to fight the final battle against the villain. I had it all worked out weeks in advance. It was going to be great. Then when they met for the first time, the villain decided she liked the protagonist so much that she adopted her. I had no idea that was going to happen and had to frantically plan a completely new set of events to work around it.

I think that's a sign that you're writing a character driven story. Plot driven stories are easier to plan in advance, and less likely to get derailed. On the other hand, I think you do *need* to plan a plot driven story, otherwise you might be left with gaping plot holes and an incoherent mess. Character driven stories require less planning, because you can trust that the characters will create the story for you, even if you have nothing planned when you sit down to write.

I enjoy brainstorming far too much to just let the story come to me as I write. I absolutely love the planning, creating things in my head and getting super excited about it. I look forward to when I'll reach that part of the story. I look forward to seeing readers' reactions to it. As for how much I have planned out, um. It gets foggier the further ahead I go, of course, but I've usually got 3-4 major story arcs in my head, as well as some super-far-away stuff that I'm not sure when I'll get around to.

And on the topic of trying to tie things up neatly, I think one good tactic is to be decisive in how you conclude subplots and story arcs. Kill that character off so that readers aren't later wondering what happened to them; if there's anything left unexplained, then make sure it gets explained before moving on; don't leave lingering questions that could come back to bite you in the ass when you're rushing to answer them all at the end.

That is, of course, only if you're looking to wrap things up. If you're trying to create a whole huge world, then I'd say absolutely leave lingering questions. Not so much so that no meaningful answers are ever given, of course, but I think it's valuable to let things remain open and give yourself lots of building material to work with.

I have key events in mind, often well in advance. I built Worm off the corpses of 100 stories in the same setting that didn't work out.

Going into a chapter, I have a general idea of how it starts and how it ends. What happens in between is up for debate.

Going into an arc (A sub-storyline of 5-16 chapters), I have a general idea of how it starts and how it ends, but I've changed my mind as the story progresses. Never does this set storyline preclude the nature of the characters and the dynamics of the setting.

For the main story, I had an idea of where I started (this took some time to work out) and where the story would go, but now that I've reached the final confrontation, I don't have anything set in stone. Sort of getting an inkling of where things go in the final moments, but I prefer to write my characters into corners and let them find their own way out.

Broad strokes. I know where I'm going, which is probably necessary in a detective story like Hobson & Choi because the clues have to add up, but there's a fair bit of flexibility about how we get there. But yeah, elements like the location/nature of the big fighty action scene I'm currently doing have changed substantially from the original plan.

Going in I had the first book planned out (this was largely due to the fact I had planned it out sometime ago but never got around to starting writing). I didn't plan it out scene to scene, but I knew all the plot points that would happen. Looking back now from the end of the first book (last post of it goes up tonight at 12:00, yay!)....I find I followed that plan pretty closely. Time frames have always been a problem for me in everything I write (always go to slow), and I realized about halfway through that nowhere near enough time had passed for several plot points. So...I started passing time faster, putting events farther apart, having characters make plans for next weekend instead of the immediate one ;-), things like that. Ultimately I had to mix things up a little bit and tweak (just a little bit) where some of the characters are in their story arcs, but I actually think it ended up for the better.

As I got near the end of the book, I sat down at one point and did plan out everything scene by scene, but even then I didn't follow that entirely and when looking back over the notes while writing came upon some things that I just thought 'that's not's too repetitive and will slow the story down too much', and I skipped it.

And very occasionally I'll add new things in. So I'm very whishy-washy with my out line ;-)

For the future books of the series...I have a good solid plan what's going to happen in book 2 and then for after that it's more like I know the outline, the character arcs, the sketches of some events that are going to happen, but I don't have all the 'how's down just yet. There are large empty stretches I'm still clueless how I'll fill to get from point a to point b.

But part of what I love about writing without planning everything out is that I often will come up with ideas that way. If I sit down and try and plan everything, I'll come up with a complete blank. But while writing, I'll write a throwaway line or a small piece of backstory or a little action, and I realize it's the missing piece to a future plot line. And it all starts fitting in place, and then I feel like Hannibal Smith in the A-Teams, and think to myself 'I love it when a plan comes together'

Like some of the above, I usually have the beginnings and ends of plot arcs mapped out, but getting from one to the other is a violent, hectic, and entertaining process of discovery. There's a weird zooming in that happens as I go from story arcs to chapters to updates, so by the end the plot in my head has a kind of connect-the-dots design zigzagging around.

Something specific I've noticed about webfiction is that you can't actually rewind and retcon something like you can in traditional publishing, so I tend to 1) be careful about writing specifics because I have a tendency to change my mind and 2) drop a lot of potential plot hooks so I have material to work with later. I'm not quite sure if this is the right way to go about it, but it certainly is fun. We'll see in a year or two, eh? :)

Yeah, if I could go back and tweak things I'd be more comfortable with the way things are going so far.

Thanks everyone, it sounds like at least a basic plan is a good idea! I'll have to set some time aside and work out how to proceed. I do have a little more of an idea for the next arc than I did the last one.

I plot and create a nice skeleton. Then I start writing, forget things, add other things, several chapters later realize something is missing, go over my notes and think, FUCK! the characters didnt do that. they were suppossed to but... shit, okay... so instead we do this... and this....

And then I plot from where I am to the end game again. wipe hands on pants, repeat.

I always go in with a good idea of the main arc of the story, and maybe some smaller arcs I want to have happen too. By 'good idea', I mean 'I have a couple of notes on a notecard, stuck to a pinboard'. Sometimes the notecards will be whole arcs, or event chains, or maybe a specific turning point or scene.

Then I have an adventure writing my way between all the notecards on my board. :)

I like to have an end-point on the story and a direction to drive it forward. Set goals work for me and I prefer stories with arcs rather than rolling, ongoing plots.

When I started the story I'm currently working on, I had the master idea of the plot in my mind for the first couple of story arcs - what was going to happen and when, who was involved, etc. As I moved through writing those, however, I realized that sometimes I forgot major events that I'd wanted to include, simply because I didn't happen to think of them as I wrote that part of the story. So, for the story arcs I'm currently working on, I created a short outline (one side of a piece of 8 1/2"x5" notebook paper) that includes the planned chapter structure of the arcs, plus a list of major events that I'm planning to have occur in that part of the arc. That's not to say that the story won't change as I write it, but at least I know that I won't have forgotten something large that I'd meant to include (that is, at least it will be left out or moved deliberately). So far, the results have been good, but I haven't finished one of the arcs yet, so I guess the jury is still out to some degree.


Super: Sci-fi/Suspense/Adventure, with Superheroes

I usually plot out the major plot points, then I get more specific and write the main thing I want to happen in each chapter. This gives me structure, but plenty of room to explore. If the skeleton has to change because of something I wrote while exploring, so be it.

I'd have to say I'm a mix of both planning ahead and barreling my way through pages. Before I had a laptop of my own, I had a basic guideline in mind, but I was pretty much scribbling down whatever I could into notebooks (all of which -- for obvious reasons -- have been buried and awaiting their turn at the bonfire).

Nowadays I try to write up a few files with Word/PowerPoint to give myself an idea of where I want to go and what plot points I need to keep track of (especially with I Hraet You). Taking notes certainly helps, but it seems like all too often things end up going awry from "the plan" -- so I just use whatever notes I have, but don't stress out too much when I swerve onto a completely unexpected tangent. I just write whatever sounds cooler at the time, I guess. Because isn't THAT the key to writing a good story?

...That facetiousness was on such a high level, even I don't know what I'm getting at here. Rejoice, maybe.

I tend to have a rough idea of the general plot in my head before I start. I've found that at least knowing how things end is incredibly helpful. How you get there is another question entirely. Like wildbow was saying, you have to include room for your characters to grow. I've written large, detailed outlines for stories before, but I often found that I would get to sections of the story later on and realize that what I had plotted didn't make sense anymore - the main character just wouldn't do what I had originally written. Over the course of the story, She/He had changed and it just didn't apply anymore. I find it's always better to throw your characters into a situation and then see how they deal with it, as opposed to making your characters do something inconsistent with their personality simply because you want a scene to go a certain way.

All that being said, having an idea of how things end has always helped me. It keeps things tight, knowing there's an end game. You can take each chapter/each arc and ask yourself: how does this ultimately move the story toward my designated ending? Or, how does this change my characters such that they are more capable of meeting that ending?


Oh and Hi, I'm new :)

I recently organized all my various notes for Tapestry into one place and it's really been liberating - I actually feel like I know where things are going and what needs to happen to get to point B from point A for the first time in years. Consequentially, I have been suffering from an abrupt lack of writer's block. ^_^

I was happily surprised to discover things on Tapestry that I hadn't yet read.

Cool. I hope that continues.

Here's hoping! I have a few days of buffer in the hopper, and I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year.

For Mirrorfall - parts of it was a story I'd done twenty drafts of, so I knew the basic shape of it (Stef - recruitment - oops), but I gave myself the freedom to fill the details in.

The rest of the books in the series (the 1.0/2.0 versions at least), I knew my start point and end point, and went completely free form in the middle. [Book #5, Oubliette, is a 220k monster, it was supposed to be a novella.]

Now that I'm doing the rewrites, I have the tracks laid and know what works and what doesn't, what can be tightened or removed, and what simply didn't work the first time through. I know the shape of the stories now, and I know the world better than I did the first time through, but I'm still allowing myself the freedom to move and enhance things, I'm not worried about colouring outside the lines if it serves the overall story better.