Tonight I sat down to continue planning out a novel idea I am currently working on (‘planning’ being the key word here). Picking up where I left off on the plot, I uncovered an important subplot that needed to be weaved into the main plot. It perfectly connected major portions of my story and added another layer of depth. I was overjoyed at this revelation and reveled in my sheer genius. After thinking about it for a minute, I had another revelation of the importance of planning out a story before actually writing it.
While I am not yet published and cannot claim professional writing experience, I am a professional programmer and in the programming world, those who do not plan their code out will almost never fix all the bugs in a timely fashion. The resulting program will mostly work, but not as well as it could have. The same principle applies to writing stories, no matter what their length.
Some authors out there think they can just dream up a good story and immediately begin to bang it out in raw, literary form. I don’t doubt there are savants out there who can write this way, but I have never read advice from professional, established authors who encourage this type of writing style. Laying out even the most basic story plan will even aid the savants in focusing their creative energies.
If I had taken this ‘cowboy writing’ approach with my current novel, I would have written almost half of it before discovering my awesome subplot and would have been forced to meticulously go back through and force in elements to properly set it up. That would have taken a long time and would almost certainly have ended up with the story having blatant holes in the plot. Since none of the story has been written in literary prose, I am free to go back through my notes and chop them up however I need to make sure this subplot is fully entrenched without worrying about leaving holes or missing deadlines for drafts.
So, there is my $0.02 on the topic of story planning. It has already saved my story and it can save yours too.
I use The Anatomy of Story by John Truby as my religious text when planning out a new story. His methods have already aided me in crafting some wickedly awesome short stories (that I hope to unleash soon) and are invaluable to me as I plan out my very first novel. Try it out and see if it works for you.