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  • A Story can Sprout before you Start Writing

A Story can Sprout before you Start Writing

This article was originally posted in December 2018.

Do you know that planning is critical to writing? It helps us get a good idea of what we're going to write before we do.

But I didn’t always think this way when I wrote my book series Pia the Pinena Fairy a few years back. I had thought planning was a waste of time, boring, time-consuming, and useless.

These lines of thought would often run through my head. I don't wanna! It takes too long! Tiring! Blah!

I jumped to conclusions too fast. Thinking and planning would be grueling! With every detail of what I was going to write running through my head, how could I remember everything? I wanted to write freely, not have a bunch of details crowd my mind!

Thinking and planning for every detail also took the fun out of writing. My imagination was blocked!

I didn’t fully realize or appreciate what planning and thinking ahead meant, especially when writing a long story such as my recent book Saving Maui.

When I had just finished the draft for the first a few chapters of Saving Maui, I noticed a problem. My first draft of Saving Maui was the opposite of logical and smooth. There were ridges everywhere and unnecessary parts added into these chapters. There were many empty sentences, unclear meanings, and it had took me forever to come up with all the plots and the story line.

Many times while revising I was confused, forgetting when or what was supposed to happen on each page because I kept changing and changing it.

In the first draft, I had Eel, a moray eel character, give my main character Pia (a fairy) and her friends illusions.

The illusions were weird and ridiculous. It featured Pia losing her wings, getting separated from her friends, and staring and walking for eternity in a grassy meadow. I later deleted many of the plots I had, including this one. And after a second revision, I found myself deleting everything and starting fresh with a third draft.

This time I included cursed pirate fairies and their sidekicks the shadow monsters (they serve the pirates), and demons, plus a special chapter just for Commander Crusher, the commander of an army of giant spiders. I also added Eel’s illusions into the new draft a mixture of a nightmare and a peek at what might happen in the future.

The new draft was longer, now almost 37,000 words. I still had a lot to revise and edit, though.

But as for my old draft… I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

……all that time and energy I had spent…just to be deleted after all.

Later I realized I could plan. I could, and I would plan. Planning didn’t mean, “Oh, yeah, and Pia will say this when Eel says this…” it meant, “I’m going to put in a pirate somewhere,” or “What should the army be? Sharks? Nah, giant spiders are way better…”.

I wouldn’t think up every detail I was going to type down before I wrote it. I was going to get a good idea of what I was writing before I rushed in headfirst. I was going to think up and imagine major story twists and plots and big scenes and then write the details.

But because my memory wasn’t the greatest, I wrote my thoughts down on a sheet of paper so I wouldn’t forget.

For example, in Saving Maui I created special magical items, like the Wina, which was a magical item home to a pixie. The owner of the Wina was also the owner of the pixie and can order it around. Another magic item, the Wing-on, was a pocket that you attached to your wings, and when you needed it, it would appear for you. Lastly, the Sour Snake was a delish snake gummy candy, and the gummy snakes were enchanted to wiggle and move until you bit it.

I couldn’t think of forgetting to add my magic items into my story, so I jotted my thoughts down.

Writing and jotting down notes helped me a lot.

In every major big scene and chapter, I thought, who saves them in this deadly chapter? Hmm… who should the cursed pirate fairies have as sidekicks? What will the solution be?

Imagination aided me.

I visualized the battle against Slate (a villain who wants to destroy friendship and take over the world), and came up with different weapons Slate would use, and Pia’s sword transformation, and wrote the small, descriptive details later on my computer.

Thinking and planning ahead was vital. Since I had thought of the plots before I started writing, I didn’t get writer’s block. Usually without thinking and planning, I would reach a point where my brain was wiped blank and I couldn’t think of a good plot to add into my books.

So, before you write, see if you can think of a few plot twists and plan ahead. But don’t hold back and let planning block your way. Just start!

If you have a plan and an idea, try it.

To see how planning and thinking helped me write Saving Maui, click on the link. Saving Maui will be a perfect read in the classroom, at home, or on the go! All kids can write!


-Amy Zhao

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