That is the question, indeed. We have all heard how necessary it is to plan, how ‘to fail to plan is to plan to fail’. I am sure it is true in many situations, including some writing.
But I also know, from experience, that planning can become the issue, rather than the story. Writers, especially less confident writers, can become absorbed in the planning, and forget to start writing the story. Worse, such tight control can crush your wild free spirit of creativity.
Every writers has their own preferred approach, however do allow yourself to try on a very different approach to your normal style.
Planning, storyboarding, a detailed synopsis – all very useful tools in your repertoire. But not compulsory, not absolutely essential, just tools that may or may not suit your current needs.
It is certainly true for me that some of my most successful stories have developed from a random line or prompt, from times when I simply started writing with absolutely no idea where this character may take me. Of course this does not always work out. But from every disaster, I can always salvage something to use elsewhere, or to give me a fresh direction.
Opening lines pop into my head, and I keep a notepad handy always, and jot these down. Maybe my subconscious works at it as I get on with life – who know the mysterious processes of a writer’s mind? – but later when I place those words at the top of a blank page, and just start writing, I am always delighted at the story that unfolds.
For longer works, I may have three or four quite lengthy and well-developed ‘fresh starts’ before I decide on a character, a voice, and a direction. Only by the process of playing with ideas, and allowing myself to discard false starts can I find the essence of this story. And nothing is ever wasted – the ‘false start’ pieces can be separately developed later, can go on to have a life of their own.
So to plan or not to plan? What is the answer? That there is no single answer – try every technique, from a written synopsis, to a graphic story board, to no plan at all. Planning is a tool, not a compulsory technique. It must serve you and your needs, to have any value. Experiment. And imagine the day when eager young writers cluster around you, asking how you write such masterpieces, and how carefully do you plan? What will you tell them? There’s a story in that!