Ten Years of Planning

In a book that I own, one of the NaNoWriMo books that seem to have multiplied in recent years, the author allows for some time spent planning before the crush of writing begins–but he recommends no more than one week. His is not the first opinion I’ve seen that encourages a limited amount of time spent not-writing, the general idea being that if you plan long enough, there will never be a book, because you’ll get caught up trying to perfect something that doesn’t exist yet, or you’ll obsess all the life out of your idea.

I can personally agree with this assessment, as the book I want to write has been in the “planning” stage for more than a decade without being written.  Therefore, this time I’m giving myself that standard week. Until June 25, I’m simply gathering files and character information and trying to make them usable for when the week begins. While I did some writing on this story originally, and I’ve tried to start from the beginning at least twice in the years since, mostly I just have a ton of thoughts on what it could or should be. This poses a bit of a challenge because many of my ideas went through revisions, so my collected notes now contradict each other or are difficult to follow. One lists a main character as “Dee.” I don’t remember this name variation, and it was so brief that it only exists on one note, as opposed to other discarded names for the same character like “Ana” and “Lea.” At this point, I’m not even sure where it came from. Because my notation consistency was so spotty, it shall remain forever a mystery.

The length of time I’ve spent exploring the possibilities also poses technical problems. In going through old discs, I’ve found seven files, likely the original set from the story’s conception. They are Microsoft Works files, though, which means that my Windows 7 PC can’t read them. (I remember fondly the halcyon days of Microsoft Works, when I thought “handwriting” fonts were the most important part of any story.) I’ll be trying some workarounds this week to render them readable, but it’s still pretty funny that the first draft of my story may exist in digital format–I just wrote it so long ago that it no longer exists according to my computer.

Another interesting part of the note-gathering process: there are key story ideas that I have no memory of creating or recording. I recently discovered a note about a character trait and important scene, both written out in my hand, that I did not remember adding to the story. I never referenced them again, so I must have forgotten or lost the note after writing it. Either way, getting organized before I start writing has turned out to be more helpful than I expected! I hope for more exciting discoveries as I head toward my planning week.

EDITED TO ADD: It turned out that opening my .wps files was shamingly simpler than I expected. I was able to successfully replace them with updated Microsoft Word versions. Among them was an entire plot breakdown as I originally conceived it, and a 24-page document filled with scenes and dialogue from various parts of the story. As I didn’t have any of this before, it has been a very good recovery day. 🙂

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Ten Years of Planning

4 thoughts on “Ten Years of Planning

  1. The short story I’m writing for camp is one that I’ve had in my head since I was 16. That’s over 14 years and it just wont die. But it’s been plaguing me because no matter how much I try to play it nothing seems good enough. I’ve built it up in my head to a point where nothing but perfection will do and I can’t write perfection! That’s why I’ve decided that little planning is probably the best way to go!

    1. Toni Travis says:

      I never thought I could “pants” something that I’d been thinking about for so long, but it has been the only way to go. I couldn’t figure out how it should work, so I stopped trying and now have to work it as I go. 🙂 So far, so good.

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