It is my observation that there is a spectrum of how to writers create, and by that, I mean that different writers have different styles when writing stories. Some need to plan things out to the Nth degree, and others are happy to just start writing and see what happens, and some folks like me are somewhere in between. That is why I say spectrum. I don’t believe that just the extreme ends exist, there are intervals in between where many of us fall. And today I wanted to talk about the planning part.
Over the years I have written many short stories and started novels, though in the past I was never quite able to finish them. I had all these ideas, but I could never quite figure out how to pull the strands together and make them do what I wanted them to do. It always felt that I was forcing plot, contriving scenes just to get from A to B to Z (By way of the rest of the alphabet, of course).
Then, one morning, it hit me. If I wanted to plan, then I was going about it the wrong way. It is much easier to have that perfect ending, if you start with the perfect ending and work your way backwards through the events necessary to make it happen. I don’t necessarily mean write your finale in its entirety, and then write the penultimate chapter and so on. I suspect that would be challenging for the most skilled writer. But if you plan, using software or a noticeboard (like I do), then you are well advised to start with the finished product, and work your way back through the necessary building blocks that make it possible.
This is also a useful skill for life. Next month I am attending the National Graduate Creative Writing Fair at Manchester Metropolitan University, to start getting myself out there as it were, meeting agents, publishers and writers and so on. And I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I had a business card to hand out?”
So, off to Vistaprint I trotted, and started designing my new awesome business card. I have no doubt I will be on their direct mail list for about ten years now. I was designing the card, when I noticed that they had the facility to add QR codes. For anyone that doesn’t know, a QR code is basically a digital bar code thingy that smart phones (With the appropriate app) and other devices can read. And these codes could tell these devices to look at a website or go to an app or something.
They look like this
I thought, what a great idea! I can put a QR code on the back of my card, give it out to people and suddenly I’ll be famous and connected! Ok, maybe not famous or connected, but it would look professional. Then I thought, I know nothing about QR codes or how to get them.
I googled it, and it turns out it is easy to get free qr codes online. All you do is visit a website, and tell it where you want the code to point at, and you are good to go. I used this WEBSITE
So, I had learned how to get QR codes – I was ready to go back and complete my card. Except I wasn’t. It needed something to point at. I could make it point at this website, but since in the final design the web address was printed on the front, that made no sense. What about my youtube channel? Great idea. I have that channel trailer I made when I started the channel, it links to the first tutorial video. It would be appropriate. Except I made that video about 2 months ago before I got better at video editing. It does the job, but I can definitely do better. I needed a new channel trailer. So, I needed to research how to make a video into a channel trailer, and then make one. Which meant scripting one. As it happens, Youtube help pages are quite informative so it took only a minute to learn how to turn a video into a trailer. And once that was done, I just needed to script the trailer video, and then compile it.
I’m going to summarise
I wanted a business card with a QR code
I learned how to do QR codes
I needed a youtube channel trailer for the code to point to, so I learned how to do that
I scripted the trailer video and recorded it.
I uploaded it and made it into a trailer. You can see it HERE
I made the qr code
I designed my business card
I knew what I wanted for my end product, in this case, a business card with a QR code. So I worked backwards learning all the things I needed to learn and doing all the things I needed to do to achieve that end. This is what it looks like, incidentally.
This is how to plan projects, and it helps if you are a novel planner. If you have a finale in mind where your evil wizard is confronted by the hero, and their allies in a specific location, you need to give them a reason to be in that location. If the hero is experiencing a specific emotion, or has some mystical weapon that will allow them to triumph, you need to give them a reason to feel that way or have that weapon.
To know where to start, sometimes the best place to start is at the finish line.