Think of a story as something akin to a train without a brake headed toward interchanging tracks. There are two options ahead for it. Only two!
One: it jumps onto another track without problem.
Two: it derails, and with it, takes all those passengers inside – your characters.
How to help a story without any brakes? Simple. You’re the master of that world, you lay down networks of tracks that you can switch from time to time to keep the train moving ahead safely, yet enticing, dramatic, thrilling and revealing.
What is a brake here? A brake, or a driver to be honest is obviously you as the writer. A writer who has planned out almost every detail of every scene and plot twist before you actually start to write it down. I say almost because in the process of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, there comes a moment when you are really not the one in control – the story writes itself and sometimes you discover avenues/tracks that were invisible to you prior.You drive it, but before you can, so you need to learn at least the basic skills and rules.
If you, or I, take a partially built train and try to go on a journey, we will surely fail. The scenes will be flat, the characters bland, and the twists we thought brilliant will be nothing but tiny speed bumps if at all that. It is one thing to imagine a grand picture in our minds, great individual scenes etc. but that’s our minds. It does brilliant on its own, like a dream, and since when have dreams looked or made much sense when put to the real world?
My point here is, plan your story, not just point A and point B thoroughly mapped out. The whole point of a story isn’t where it started, A, and where it ends, B. It’s actually what happens in between! Plan your in-betweens. Trust me when I say this, it will be much easier to navigate the story this way, and you’ll be surprised what other brilliant channels you will discover once the pressure is off you for mere basics.
This planning phase is crucial to all writing style, whether you write short story, novel, poem, script, play or even a speech. The journey is important. NOT point A and B. Or no matter how much you try, that story train will derail, meaning your writing and story won’t be as brilliant as your mind had pictured, and when it does derail, you may not have the strength sometimes to try and straighten it up, do some maintenance and give it a trial run.
So before you haphazardly start on a project that hasn’t gone through the proper planning phase, do go back to it and spend some extra time on it, fill it out so that it’s not just a skeleton to work with. Remember, skeletons don’t move on their own, it’s the nerves and muscles that give it power and determination. So build you inner story before you sit down to write it out into a beautiful skin. Believe me, you do this early on and it will save you a heck of a lot of time and pain later on, not to mention leave your hair intact because you won’t be pulling it out with frustration.
Plan, plan and PLAN.
Otherwise, step away from you desk this very instant please. You will be doing yourself a favor.
And if you’ve planned and you’re ready, then go forth and enjoy the journey you planned. All the best and the rest.