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By Johannes Helmold

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planning importanceWhat I like about writing novels most of all is that being the author of a novel doesn’t mean you can’t be a reader of one. In other words, being an author doesn’t mean you know everything about how the story will develop. When you write, rather often you discover that occasionally stepping aside from the initial idea can add action, make your story more vivid and intriguing, and open new possibilities for your characters as main actors, and for you as the director. Every time I start writing a new chapter, I ask myself, “Is something unexpected going to happen?”

There is only one “but” to all this. To be able to step aside from the path, you must first have a paved road to walk on, if you can see what I mean. Okay, done with the metaphors: to write something impromptu, you must first have a general plan of your story. Moreover, this plan must cover everything: your story’s key moments, relationships between characters, turnovers, and so on.

The plan itself doesn’t need to be super-exact and detailed—usually, each chapter’s main points can be described in three-four sentences. When you have your main characters developed (check out my posts about creating characters), and have your core idea formulated, you can decide on the direction where you want to move your story—its finale. Respectively, the plan will be your road map on the way to this finale.

The main trick is that having a plan allows you to experiment. Without a plan, all your writing is impromptu. When you don’t know what is going to happen, how can you come up with a surprising turnaround? How can you write something at all? When the whole road map is in front of your eyes, you can easily find shortcuts and back alleys (sorry, couldn’t stand not inserting another metaphor). It’s up to you whether to use them or not.

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