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The recent question "Is it OK to invent as I write, or should I plan the entire story first?" seems very closely related to "How much planning should go on before beginning writing?". Since the answer to the more recent one and the answers to the older one do not overlap, I do not think these are duplicates. (The specific questions themselves are clearly not duplicates. The older is asking if an outline is enough; the more recent is asking if writing can begin with almost no preparation.)

However, I feel there is enough overlap in what a good answer would provide (showing the range of preparation various writers make) that a single question could address this in the broad context that is implied in the title/question summary of the older question.

This broad question could be supplemented by more detailed questions along the lines of "What are the problems and benefits of writing with minimal preparation (pantsing)?", "How does character-driven plotting work?" (with text indicating that what is sought is not just a mechanical description but an outline of the tradeoffs; a similar question might be made for setting- and theme-driven plotting), "How are plot outlines helpful (and problematic)?", "When is world-buidling useful?" (a similar question might ask about preparing character descriptions), "What challenges are involved in writing toward a pre-established ending?", etc.

I suspect I am trying to force too much organization onto a questions and answers site, making it more like an encyclopedic reference (with cross referencing to handle various levels of detail and other relationships). Stack Exchange's competing answers method also seems to make broad questions more problematic in that individual answers will often only address one aspect and lean toward "bad subjective" (as exemplified in the older question) and people seem hesitant to incorporate others' content into their answers (even with Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike licensing the scoring aspect makes such seem a bit like stealing).


Side thought: I wonder if would be useful for distinguishing broad questions seeking general, high-level information (making "here's one solution" answers into non-answers since they do not actually answer the question). Sadly, such makes getting multiple answers less likely since requiring a long answer tends to reduce the distinctiveness of answers (a little content might be different and the organization, perspective, and style could certainly be different), which reduces the incentive to answer beyond just the effort required for an extensive answer (as the first decent answer will provide most of the benefit of a good answer). This effect might be compensated by providing badges for posting decent (by score) long answers to overview questions. (One might even be able to change the tag wiki into overview questions. While that would increase the incentive to provide some of the information that would normally go into such a wiki, some of the tag wiki information is more Meta-oriented, indicating what types of questions are appropriate and how to express them.)

  • By the way, "What is the official line on Mega-Questions?" is not especially closely related since it deals with multiple questions within a post where the context weakly binds them together rather than broad overview versus specific questions. – Paul A. Clayton Sep 30 '14 at 14:31
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    I'll have to give this all some thought, as you make several good points. But the proposed tag, "overview" sounds to me like a meta-tag, one that describes something other than the content of the question. We try to avoid those. – Neil Fein Sep 30 '14 at 15:06
  • May I ask a question, Paul? Why don't you ask all these questions? – John Smithers Oct 2 '14 at 19:33
  • @JohnSmithers It is difficult to write such questions in a way that strongly encourages good subjective answers of appropriate length (i.e., properly establishing a good scope). My extremely analytical approach to answering questions can be time consuming (especially with my perfectionist tendencies) but I generally have a sense that the argument is solid. Asking a good subjective question seems to require more judgment calls and indecision is probably common among perfectionists. Questions should also generally be short (so trying to tie up every detail is somewhat discouraged). – Paul A. Clayton Oct 2 '14 at 20:30
  • Asking questions also generally requires doing some preliminary searching to avoid duplication. This also adds more judgment calls about how to phrase the question so it is not a duplicate of any closely related question one finds. (While a good citizen would search for duplicates before answering, I do not remember ever having done so and the community tolerates lack of SE-internal research.) With medium-breadth subjective questions, duplicate discernment is not necessarily straightforward. (I also seem to feel that having a question closed is even worse than being downvoted.) – Paul A. Clayton Oct 2 '14 at 20:31
  • @JohnSmithers I suspect asking for help is also more difficult for me than offering help (perhaps from a combination of social awkwardness and self-esteem issues). Even knowing intellectually that the site needs questions (and answers earn reputation) and that decent questions can be helpful to others does not fully overcome the feeling that my questions are a net drain. In addition, the questions mentioned above would not be questions I actually have, so asking them would tend to require even more effort to express them in a way useful to others. – Paul A. Clayton Oct 3 '14 at 12:20
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    Ok, you do tend to write a lot ;) – John Smithers Oct 3 '14 at 20:37

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