How much planning is enough?

Front view of Celtic Conveyor - Interplanetary FreighterI’ve always been keen on doing a sensible amount of planning for each new novel I write, but over time I’ve found myself doing increasing amounts of preparation work.  As usual I still find that I only use a minor proportion of the planning material in the resultant novel. Character backstories are usually far more detailed than crops up in dialogue, more locations are planned than end up being used and often some conversations get edited out completely to enhance the flow and pace of the novel. Sometimes I end up not using characters I’ve designed, or combining two characters into one to simplify things for both me and the reader.


Rear view of Celtic Conveyor Interplanetary FreighterRecently, in what little spare time I get, I’ve been building a 3D model of a vessel which incorporates most of the locations in my next Astronomicon novel. As I’ve said before in other posts, it’s doubly worth doing as the next but one novel will be set in the sister vessel and will therefore share most of the same layout.


This is a very time consuming process but proved to be a massive asset in Astronomicon: Icarus. It allowed me to create scenes, most notably the armed boarding of the vessel, with a fantastic level of clarity, and provided inspiration for several scenes which I would not have otherwise imagined. The Icarus was a small vessel and relatively simple to construct. In contrast, the Celtic Conveyor (pictured above) is a much larger freighter with an additional capacity for almost 100 passengers. It’s not practical to construct the entire vessel in full detail, so I’m having to concentrate my efforts on the areas most likely to feature in the book.


This goes against my perfectionist nature, the idea of leaving parts of the vessel incomplete feels so wrong, and means I may miss out on some inspiration. In most cases more planning means a better novel, but where’s the cut off point? When does the extra planning work stop being worthwhile?

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