Is It Possible to Over-Plan When Writing a Novel?


ID-10078246 man with penAre you a novel planner? I tend to be. But is it possible to plan too much?

Usually, once I have an idea in place, I go about creating a plan for the rest of the novel. Sometimes I wrote a long synopsis, other times maybe a chapter or scene summary.

And this plan serves to:

  • Keep me motivated
  • Keep my writing on track, so that I understand the goal or finish line of each chapter/scene
  • Force me to think about the bigger picture of the story, and how to create meaning for the characters and the actions they undertake along the way

But sometimes, when I write off a plan, I run into two main problems:

(a) It all begins to fall apart when writing. I start to question the plan I’ve written up and then I dive into other possibilities for character action, reaction, emotion and decision. And then – I just go back to doing more planning, instead of more writing.

(b) I get bored. One of the things I love about fiction writing is the opportunity to work out the characters and the story as I’m writing it. But once it’s all in a plan, the appeal of creating the story is kind of gone for me as an author.

So I suppose the question is – Am I an over-planner? Am I trying to work it all out too much in advance? Trying to make the first draft of the story to perfect?

Or should I embrace the plan-then-write working structure, and be a more methodical writer? ID-100160560 man dream bubble

Who knows. I’ve crafted story plans that have worked for me. And I’ve also ignored the need for a plan, and spent hours and hours writing around in circles.

I guess the conclusion here is that (like everything in life) it’s all about creating a healthy balance.

I do think it is possible to plan too much when writing a novel. You can plan everything to a tee – but at the end of the day, it still comes down to making it all work through writing.

And yet if you just write without a plan (as I know some writers do, and it works for them), you can end up becoming writing ‘lost’ (though which is not always a bad thing). It’s one thing to have a story goal for your character, but sometimes, it isn’t always obvious how that goal should come to fruition in terms of scenes, actions and emotions.

Anyway, it would be great to hear your thoughts – fellow writers – on how much or little you plan!

For me, I’m done with planning right now. It’s time for some creative writing.

(Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / David Castillo Dominici / Master isolated images) 

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4 Replies to “Is It Possible to Over-Plan When Writing a Novel?”

  1. It is possible to over-plan when doing anything, and writing is no exception. Over-planning can be like another form of procrastination. We do not know how to start, and so we spend our time planning so we can delay the actual act of writing. That’s how it is for me sometimes anyway. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your reply! Me too 🙂 I suppose the challenge of being a writer is knowing when planning is actually adding to the process and when it is just a another way of procrastinating… Gotta luv all these self-induced obstacles!

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