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Planning (@RainforestGirl)

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When you're writing fanfiction, you've got to start at the very beginning (which is, of course, a very good place to start). That beginning, like all forms of writing, is planning. While some writers elect to make a simple outline and run with it, I've found that having a more in depth system of planning not only gives me a better idea of what I'm doing but allows me to write more and be more creative.

Of course, this is absolutely vital when it comes to fanfiction - you have to plan out how your story is going to connect to the canon material. If you don't plan out how it's going to connect, then you're going to have some problems later on down the road.

But no need to worry - there are about as many forms of fanfiction as there are different things to make fanfiction out of. Since this is your own story simply taking ideas from canon, you're free to a multitude of different things. This is what you need to plan out right when you start making a fanfic. The first step is always to figure out what you're going to do, right?

First of all, you have some forms of fanfiction which borrow directly from canon and then run with it. Sometimes you'll have a continuation of a certain plotline that was never fully fleshed out in the show, or what you'll predict will happen in the upcoming books or movies. Other times you can choose to fill in plot holes and problems that came up in the writing of the show (this happens more often than you might think)! These types of stories are known as fix fics.

Then we start to get to places where the fanfiction completely diverges from the canon material...which is, not surprisingly, known as divergence. Maybe you didn't like what the ending of the book was like, so you decide to unravel the story and then rewrite it in your own way. There's also situations where you have characters who aren't always present in the main action - they must've been doing something even when the camera wasn't on them! In this, you can show what's happening elsewhere during the same events.

Now we get into some of the more fascinating ideas, in my opinion. Some of the best fanfics I've read wouldn't seem like they belonged with the canon at a first glance. I'm talking about modern setting and alternate universes. Typically, modern setting is used for stories which take place in the distant past such as medieval times or the Victorian era. Sometimes this is also known as modern AU. You simply push all of the events years forward to our time. (I've written one of these myself - it's very entertaining.)

Something that I think would work very well for a modern AU - as well as many other places - is epistolary fiction. This is where the entire story is told through letters being exchanged...or perhaps email...or even text messages...I think you can see where I'm going with this.

But of course, the world of alternate universes (AUs) is even more expansive than simply transporting a story to modern times. There are literally infinite possibilities when it comes to this. You wish that your OTP had met one another because they were both starring in a musical? Easy. Write an AU. What if your favorite crime thriller took place entirely in space, in a SciFi setting? You can write that too. Literally anything can be an AU if you set your mind to it.

Still, I think that crossovers have provided some incredible material - sometimes plots and characters and places just go together too well to ignore. You take two fandoms and put them together however you see fit. Sometimes you have characters from one fandom going through the plot of another. I've read stories where it's simply the canon story, but put into the universe of another story. But there's also the possibility of creating your own personal story with the characters all brought together. It's all up to you.

Those are just some of the ways you can manage to find a manner to carry across the story you want to tell the world. Remember that it's fanfiction - you're the fan, and it's your fiction. You have the right to do whatever you want, as long as you're not breaking any laws.

Something you most likely will want to get out of the way during the planning period is research. Some fandoms have extensive amounts of information that might end up impacting your plot immensely (I'm looking at you, Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings!), but even an AU is going to require some research.

Quite a few fandoms actually have well-made wikis. These often have hordes of information you can use. I find them especially helpful when I need just a few pieces of information, and they have proven themselves incredibly valuable.

Of course, if you need to absorb all of the information you possibly can, you'd be better of rewatching the show or movie, rereading the book, replaying the game...and all that jazz. You not only receive loads of useful, in depth information, but you also end up finding more ways to plan out and expand your fanfiction.

But of course, it is still fiction. You plan the story the same way you would plan an original story...which, of course, is just as variable as the forms that fanfiction can take. There is no definitive way to plan, but I'm going to share with you some of my favorite ways.

Mind Mapping: I am such a visual learner, and mind maps are very appealing to me. My personal favorite is Coggle, a free website that allows you to make gorgeous mind maps. This tends to be very nonlinear planning - I divide my thoughts for the story into several major groups, then divide those groups into more specific ones, and so on. I recommend this if you've got a thousand loosely connected thoughts going around.

Timeline: This, of course, is one of the most linear forms of planning. Each event comes right after the next in the order of your story. I, personally, think this would be interesting for an elsewhere fic where you have major canon events on the timeline first and then you weave your story in. I recommend a website called Dipity - it's not the most beautiful, but it's so functional that I don't mind!

Plotlining: If an outline is a skeleton, this is like the whole person. Using LitLift (which has many other wonderful functions that I highly recommend!) you can make your basic outline, then make chapters to put into the outline, then make scenes to put into the chapters. This gives you a fantastic way to organize your scattered thoughts (and it really appeals to me).

Those are just three ways that have worked for me in the past - but, of course, everyone is different! It's always worth a try to see what's going to work and what won't.

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