Monday, September 05, 2011

Planning Stories, Building Hotels

After my post the other day about REWRITING, I had several messages asking about how I PLAN.

One writer in particular said:
"I always tend to write as I feel - and so planning tends to fizzle out the creativity. I sort of go for a walk, and think about what will happen next, almost imagine everything as if I was there, and then go home, and write. I think I need to know how to plan a novel, it might make life a lot easier..."

So I replied with a long ramble about building hotels. I've always want to build a hotel, but perhaps I shouldn't let it influence my creative writing tips. Here's what I wrote:

You said that for you planning "tends to fizzle out the creativity". I think the same is true for a lot of people, especially young writers. But for me, the planning is the most creative bit!

Like you, I think about what will happen next and imagine everything as if I were there - that sounds great. But then instead of just writing it as it is in my head, I jot down notes about what happens and the important bits that make the image feel more real to me.

Then I build around it: How does that bit fit into the overall plot? How can I make that scene even more exciting or moving or surprising or original with what I put around it or leading up to it? What are the consequences of that scene? What am I trying to say with that scene, if anything, and how can I bring that out more sharply?

I make notes on what can happen around that bit that I've come up with, which leads to the creation of other bits. Again, I make notes on the new images and plot ideas. They won't all fit together at first so I'll have to go backwards and forwards adjusting the bits I've come up with until they all click into place to work together.

That first bit that I came up with will probably have changed several times over by now. Quite often I'll realise that it isn't necessary to my story after all. It was a good launch pad for all my other plotting and development, but I don't need it any more.

There are all kinds of analogies I could make. For example, if I were designing a grand hotel, I could go for a walk and imagine an incredible lobby. I would picture it in such detail that I would feel like I could walk in there for real. I might be so excited that I want to go home and start building it immediately. But of course it wouldn't be time to do that yet. I'd need to use the excitement of my 'lobby' idea to create ideas for the rooms, the kitchens, the dining rooms, gardens, bathrooms, ventilation systems, lift shafts... and everything else that a hotel has. Otherwise I'll just end up with a fancy lobby.

The theme and style of my lobby, that I like so much, would have to carry through into everything else in the building. Using those themes and ideas I might get carried away with the hotel swimming pool & spa. Eventually I might realise that if I put everything I've come up with into this hotel the whole building will fall down or the lifts won't work, so I need to go through the design tweaking things until I realise I don't need such a massive lobby at all. Who visits a hotel for the fancy lobby? It might be impressive when you first walk in, but it's no good if the food, rooms, lifts and service are all a bit clunky.

I think you get the idea. I've never rambled about hotel design for so long. I hope it makes some sense.

Having said all that, I know that there are some writers who do far less planning than me. There are even some who just start writing with only a vague sense of the central idea of their story. They feel their way until something emerges that resembles a story and they follow that.

So obviously that method is also possible. I just find it more exciting to work out a brilliant story first, which builds my own anticipation to a point where I can't NOT write it.

I also think that in the long run, good planning saves a whole lot of work. I don't want to be moving the walls of a grand lobby that felt right at the time, when I realise the pool & spa need more space so I've got to shift huge marble slabs.

Yes, it's a lobby of marble. Also, a huge chandelier and a staircase with a monkey-butler on every step.

Good luck with your writing!


1 comment:

Nick Jacobs said...

I'm planning to travel to London for a business meeting and I'm trying to decide where to stay. I got cheap tickets, but the hotel fees are so expensive!