There is a lot of work when it comes to preparing for a novel. Even for someone who is deciding to pants a story, if the writer doesn’t know what they are doing to write even the premise, then not only with the story be a bumbling mess that they will struggle to clean up as they edit. This is namely because everyone needs at least a good starting out point. Whether that is a perfect first sentence or a solid one line hook. You need something.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a planner, a very completionist planner. I don’t feel right if I don’t have every single chapter mapped out fully. I need to know all of the major events in a scene, but I’m alright if I don’t know all the little ticks or personality changes. I’m fine letting relationships develop as they will, only planning out a major relationship event early on if it effects the plot. It is a story with all the details that keeps me going. This means I need to know what the hell is going on in my story before I begin. Which can often take a long time.
The fastest that I’ve ever planned a novel was two weeks. It was breakneck. I had a lot of ideas and pulling them together was rather easy. However, I tend to spend roughly 6 weeks to plan. I need time to let the ideas come to me. And from there I continue to build. Brick by brick I lay the foundation of what the world is like and what my characters will struggle through. Then I think about what kind of characters would allow themselves to end up in that situation. There personalities become solid, yet fluid enough that they are natural when it comes time to right. As the world becomes more fleshed out and the predicament they are in takes shape, I feel more confident.
Once I am confident, I truly begin planning. Not just thinking of the big issue and random events. I place them and make a story arise. The events go into a sequence that makes sense and certain events that just don’t have a place are dropped. It’s a long process, but by the end of it all, I know where my story is headed. All of this comes from me sitting back and thinking ‘hey, I need to start thinking’ and it works.
That said, I can’t just make myself think. A lot of the early stages when the idea is just forming is very disjointed. I’m not thinking much. Just jotting down a note when it comes to me. A random thought on the drive home, or when someone says something that makes my brain start chugging. All those little moments and ideas all combine together and suddenly I have the inklings of a story. The pieces of my puzzle that I am building backwards. I see the tiny part of the image, but for a long time I can’t see the whole picture. Brainstorming and the following planning allows me to create the frame and the big chunks. It’s not until I start writing that the picture starts coming together. And not until editing that the picture is finally whole.