There are two types of writers (and those of us who fall into a third category somewhere in between)—those who plan out everything to the letter before they write, and those who write by the seat of their pants, allowing the characters and writing process to dictate where the story goes.
Or, as George R.R. Martin puts it:
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”
Even those of us who would staunchly consider ourselves architects will often change things when our characters surprise us and a little gardening is needed. But I think it’s also important for gardeners to at the very least retroactively do some heavy planning, namely by taking notes as they write and brainstorm ideas that they can easily reference later when editing.
I am a middle of the road writer. I plan, more so with every new book idea, but those plans change, often greatly as a story moves forward, and I’ll find myself altering even the biggest plot points. This is made so much easier by taking excessive notes from the start of the writing process through completion.
Title ideas? Written down. Character bios and physical descriptions? All down. Snippets of dialogue. An outline. And, eventually, notes about plot points, reveals, really any pertinent details marked as connected to the chapter they appear in so that later I can easily see any plot holes or things I missed that need to be brought up again, or maybe even removed.
I cannot tell you how helpful this practice was as I edited what will be my new series, Life as a Teenager Vampire, starting with BWN in February! Even with a few ‘kill your darlings’ moments. I had the notes, but darn it, the scene or detail no longer worked with the overall story. (Of course I still saved those notes, and any scenes I cut, because you should never, ever delete something you could potentially use later or change your mind about).
So I implore you, fellow writers, whether you’re a gardener like Martin, a planner, or a mixed bag like me, take notes throughout your entire writing process. You and your readers will be thankful for the attention to detail and (hopefully) flawless plot that comes out of it.