Is it the only way to go?
No. But ambitious projects—if they are to go smoothly from start to “the end”—benefit from planning. The better the plan, the better the project will go.
You can go at it “on a wing and a prayer,” to quote the old World War II idiom, and it can work beautifully, though possibly not efficiently, and there are no guarantees in the open sky.
Why do it?
Efficiency! A good plan will promote better writing and less rewriting.
Doesn’t a plan make things too comfortable?
With all your start-up work—the idea evolved, the plotting, the thinking through themes and characters, the narrative structure, the voices, the research—you’ve resolved your major challenges and have something solid to serve as a guide.
You feel in control. And when you feel in control, you’re probably more willing to take risks, which can lead to more interesting writing. A plan can set you free.
Does the planned approach create a better work?
The plotted story, if all goes well in the writing, has a better chance of being concise and clear—and of being finished in a timely manner. This is a lot better than being two hundred pages into it and finding that everything you thought you understood about your story has dissolved into a cloud of confusion.
Doesn’t planning stifle creativity?
Of course not. You still have to write the thing, not to mention the plan itself.
Comments welcome and edited to include first names only, and website, if provided; never your email. Photo of angel gull by Harald Hoyer.