Inside the Fiction Factory – Part 7

The NASA approach to writing

I love a good pun and make no apology for it. One of my favourites is, I’m going to use the NASA approach to writing this novel and plan it.

I have written in freefall (another space reference) and each morning just carried on writing without a plan, in the belief I would think up the next stage of the plot when it was time to sit down the next day and continue writing. I think the story ended up okay, though it was a novel I never got around to querying.

Writing without a plan is not for me. Out of a dozen novels I’ve drafted, I’ve only ever written one without a chapter plan. However, I am not the type of person that has to have lots of intricate detail about my characters and the world they inhabit prior to writing the opening draft. That comes over time with the first couple of drafts. What I concentrate on is having a basic chapter plan with sufficient information before I start to write. A rough running order if you like, stating what happens and each plot twist as the story progresses. In fact, thinking about it, I’m already into the first draft in doing this chapter plan. I tend to brain dump all sorts of aspects of the plot and what I’m trying to achieve.  These pages are like a dialogue with myself. Typically, these are handwritten notes, as I usually have these ideas when the laptop isn’t switched on and I like to scribble down in often bizarre forms of shorthand ideas as they come to me. I like to type these notes up as soon as possible and cut and paste them into some semblance of order. That ends up as my chapter plan which informs my opening draft.

Once I have a basic chapter plan then I can really start to write it out, expanding on the ideas, allowing my characters to suggest plot twists and going off at tangents to see where it takes me. I can be confident in taking this approach, as I have a plan to return to whenever I find I need it. All because I have a plan, doesn’t mean I have to stick to it. I simply find it makes it easier for me to get to the end of the draft.

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