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The Importance of Planning in Fiction

After all the hype about Dan Brown's books I finally decided to read one. Since I'd already seen The Da Vinci Code at the movies, I opted for Angels and Demons, a story I knew nothing about. I was totally engaged in the plot and the characters until I got to the end. When Robert Langdon jumped from a moving helicopter using only his coat as a parachute, and landed unharmed on a river bank, I set the book to the side and didn't finish it.
This got me to thinking about my novel. I asked myself if the world I created was cogent. After all, my plot is complex and there's a lot of otherworldly stuff going on. The world I construct around my characters will play an important role in the overall believability of the story. I needed to be sure I'd done everything in my power to weave a tightly knitted plot, sooooo, I went into Google and did some reading.
During my research I came across two very interesting articles. The first, titled: The Importance of Setting by Tina Morgan, explains that authors must research and plan the worlds they are creating. Failing to do so could result in poor conflict resolution, which may cause the author to change the rules midway through the story. It seems Mr. Brown was guilty of this. Langdon's jump was completely out of character, not to mention unrealistic (I couldn't suspend my disbelief). Even if an author creates a world that is completely make believe, he/she must plan/plot out every contingency before putting pen to paper. Ms. Morgan says the extra work will pay off with a well written book.
The second article I came across discusses J.K. Rowling's plotting Method.  She uses a grid process to outline her chapters. They are separated by title and month then under each section, she explains how the individual chapter relates to the over-arching plot. She also has columns for the subplots of each of her six books.
Although my method of planning isn't as complex as Rowling’s, based on the success of her novels, I can see how effective and important planning is to the overall effectiveness of a story.  
Do any of you pre-plan or outline your stories?  If not, then I'd be interested to know how you organize the plots before putting pen to paper.  How do you make it all work?  Unitl next time, happy writing.


  1. I almost always outline my stories, unless I'm writing the beginning of a draft because I felt particularly inspired. Then I'll just run with the beginning and plot once I've gotten down a few chapters.

  2. Sounds like you've got the plotting thing down to a science, Golden Eagle. Outlining has really helped me organize my story. I can't imagine trying to approach an entire novel by the seat of my pants. Wonder if there are published authors who have...Hmmm.

  3. I'm definitely an outliner, although not to the degree of creating a grid. I find it invaluable with connecting plot elements together, which is extremely important writing mysteries! :)

  4. Couldn't agree more D.L. I tried writing by the seat of my pants and regretted it. My plot had more holes than a warehouse filled with Swiss cheese. There has to be some sort of plan in place before writing, IMHO.

  5. I totally agree that a plot has to ring true to the world it's in-- no mater how outlandish the world is. There is no changing the rules part-way through!

    I'm checking out the link to J.K.'s plotting right now. Sounds fascinating!

  6. I love planning my novels now. I didn't used to outline at all and it was rough when I reached the revision stage. Now that I outline I don't have as many rewrites.

  7. Hi Peggy, thanks for stopping by. I think you'll find Rowling's plotting method fascinating. What a mind that woman has.

    Hi Lynda, thanks for dropping by. I can totally relate to the problem with "pantsing" through a novel. I did it in my first draft and wound up with a big mess. I feel outlining helps with cogence and flow. Unfortunately, I still have lots of editing to do when my novel is completed.(:

  8. I never use to, but now I really see the importance, especially when one poorly planned scene or plot point can cause a reader to close the book. I haven't perfected a method though. Each book seems to require a different means.


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