To Plan Or Not To Plan

Planning is one of those things that troubles every novice writer.

Some of us like everything to be drafted, bullet pointed and categorised before we’ve even started. There’s flash cards, colour coordination and maybe the odd sketch…

Then there’s those that just get stuck in and write with out thinking of what happens next. There’s an idea and then there’s chapter 1, that’s all there is to it! The writer meets the character as they hit the page and every chapter is a surprise.

Then there’s the few of us who do something inbetween. We start planning, meet a plot hole and hurry on to writing in the hope that it’ll fix itself.

I don’t think there’s a definitive answer on to ‘plan or not to plan’ but here’s some ideas to help with whichever way you choose…

When Planning:

1. A Sentence Is Enough

When coming up with your story plan, a sentence is enough to round up a chapter. Don’t get bogged down with every detail otherwise you’ll feel that your just filling in a ‘writing by numbers’ book and you won’t get a chance to be imaginative.

2. Don’t Forget Your Clues

If you’ve got an ending already devised that needs some clues dropped in along the way then go through and pop them in your story plan. Again, it’s only a reminder so don’t pad out the description too much. All you need is ‘Clue: Peppermint Tea’, etc.

3. Make It The ‘Real Thing’

Give yourself chapter titles so your story feels like a real book in the making. Seeing it in that format will also help you cut out those useless chapters like ‘Tom walks to school and thinks about his feelings’, etc.

4. Make Planning FUN!

As useful as planning can be, it can also feel really unproductive because you’re not getting to do any ‘real’ writing. Make yourself a little timetable with deadlines or download a progress app like ‘A Novel Idea’.

5. Slow Down

When you’ve got a plan, it’s easy to take the quickest route to the next chapter. Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy the dialogue, action and other endearing parts of your book. After all, it’s the journey that counts!

When not planning:

1. Read first

Make sure you read your last chapter before you start the next one. It’s easy to go off track and forget who your characters are or what they want.

2. End Before You Begin

Consider writing your final chapter before you start getting into the bulk of the booK. This gives you an end goal without getting too organised. You can always change your ending if a better idea comes to along but having a draft ending in mind means you won’t go off on rambling tangents, too much…

3. Throw Them in the Deep End

The best thing about the ‘no planning’ route is that you really don’t know what’s coming next and, with any luck, your readers won’t either. However, don’t go easy on yourself or the character, drop yourselves in the deep end and work your way out. Don’t be tempted to come up with an easy obstacle so you can come up with an easy solution.

4. Know Some Stuff

Yes, you’re free-spirited and writing without boundaries but you need to know a couple of things. Who is your character? What are they like? And what’s their Achilles heel? People can argue that you need more than this to start a story or a novel but sometimes the barebones fill out better along the way than you could of imagined in the first place.

5. Forget The Quirks

Don’t put random quirky clues into your writing for something that doesn’t exist. Make sure you know what’s going on, at least.

If all else fails, change things up and join the other side! If planning isn’t working for you, try not planning, and vice versa. I always thought of myself as a die hard planner but I recently discovered that I’m way better freewheel writing!


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