Metruis wrote:I will argue vehemently with anyone who tells me the only good way to write is by planning, outlining, or writing huge panels of background on everything and anything before starting to write.
No, the people who claim that--you guys--you might be right for you but there's aproximately a 50/50 split between the writers who plan and the writers who don't.
I absolutely agree that you don't need much planning to start writing, but if you're trying to do the epic story thing with many characters and a traditional plot, it helps to have basic structure thought out beforehand. Just to keep things consistent and reduce the number of big corrections that have to be done later in the name of continuity. Planning is a tool just like anything else - you most likely don't have to go Tolkien about it. What you said about "finishing it" is spot on! Also, the "why should I care" -tip is priceless. It should be on every writer's wall.
By the way, how did you calculate that it's a 50/50 split? It seems like a difficult thing to research.
Stephen King was mentioned earlier as an example of a writer who does not plan ahead of writing. He doesn't - for the preliminary draft. Which he then goes over and over again. Although, you could argue that he has already done the legwork - he usually places his stories in the same small town and uses similar characters. So he has a firm base to build on without doing any additional research. Also, he writes a lot more than he publishes. There are bound to be a lot of misses with any kind of writing style. That's nothing to be afraid of.
For many who are just beginning to write not having to plan ahead will seem like a more comfortable approach. It's not easier. You still need to go over it afterwards many times to make it work properly. If there are those who are able to write a good story the first time around without research or planning, you should absolutely be working for some branch of the writing industry because you will save producers millions. What I would suggest for beginners is to start with short stories, analyze them after they are finished and then to gradually move to longer stories. It's like practising for the marathon.
Many people have also suggested to let your characters write for you. In my opinion that's good advice as long as they write on the micro-level and mostly their own reactions. I wouldn't let your characters write the whole storyline. That's closer to a RPG. Of course, if your audience goes for that, why not. But I think the larger audience would find RPG-like plots too chaotic and illogical. I do think it's a good idea to let your characters vent and go to the extreme in their reactions. You don't have to include it in the final story but it's a good way to find their limits.
These are tools for planning (I apologize if someone already posted these):
1. The story needs to be acceptable by the audience in three categories: The ethic, the aesthetic and the logical. You don't need to try to please your audience too much, but it's helpful to know their limits.
2. Think about the setting: what is the contradiction, what is the conflict
3. The same for the characters
4. Describe the story in one or two sentences. Does it sound interesting?
These also work if you have to get back to the core of the story you are writing. It's useful to periodically take a figurative step back and think about what you originally wanted the story to say.
Basically, what I'm saying is that dramaturgy and pre-planning in general is a set of tools. Use them or not, the result is always up to you. I learned the hard way with the strip I'm now publishing - had to redo almost 50 finished strips and cut 30 to make the story work. NOT nice when one strip takes 1-2 days to complete