To plan or not to plan?

by Angelina
(Michigan)

Question: So I've been writing lately, without much planning because when I do I get stuck. The problem with that is now I'm having trouble with names and the main species background. With the names, I've used several name generators, looked at baby name lists, and looked up meanings of names. I can't find any telephone books to search. With the species, I know they're in a civil war but I'm having trouble deciding why they are in said war.


I don't want to stop and go back to major planning because I get caught up in it more than I do writing. But if I don't I might be stuck for a while and have to resort to names like 'Jane Doe' and the likes for a while. Any ideas? Thank you for any help!

Answer: Certainly with character names it can be helpful to just use a place-holder name for now, to avoid slowing down your writing process. Eventually, the right names may come to you if you keep your ears open.

With the civil war, that rather depends on your characters' perception of it. Lots of people get caught up in wars with very little understanding of what the conflict is all about. If that's the case with your hero, you may be able postpone your understanding of the background until you're in the revision stage. It will be helpful for you, as the writer, to know eventually what's going on because that will explain why and what events are happening.

Of course, if your main character is a general, that's a different matter.

It may help to consider that most wars are fought for economic reasons. They are fought by the powerful for control over resources such as land, labour, or transportation routes (even if the people are told different reasons).

Comments for To plan or not to plan?

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Jan 17, 2013
Planning is Better Than Not Planning
by: Todd M Rogers

I have a construct called an ICT (Idea Conception Table), where I create the universe that my story lives in.

It can be a placeholder for names of species, planet names, system names, star names, starship classifications, speed tables, character demographics, and a host of other things.

I do not use ICTs to plan story arcs, however, but I do take a good look at the story I have and I see where a love interest can be inserted or perhaps a longer arc over several books or chapters of the same book can be inserted to add that little extra something that might otherwise have been missing.

If you do not plan at least minimally, you run the risk or writing yourself into brick walls, and that takes time away from writing the story, and good ideas get lost, and story starts to lack because you've spent too much time in one place.

Try conceptualizing or fleshing out the basics of your universe first, and then write within your means.

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