Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How Important Is Planning?

I was raised by a mother who loves to write lists. As a teenager, I'd roll my eyes and groan every time she grabbed for her little notepad and got my lazy-self organized.

Now, as an adult, in a job that has my brain struggling to contain all it needs to, I am forever grateful to my mother for getting me in the habit of writing out lists.

I love lists. I love seeing what I need to get done and then that satisfaction of crossing it off. With running my own little publishing business - which face it, as indie authors, that's exactly what we're doing - I find lists essential. So far, I have yet to miss a deadline and hopefully I never will. Lists keep me on track and organized. Being planned makes me a better business woman...and a better writer.

I know all writers have their own style for what works for them, but I am finding with each new book I write, that planning the story in detail not only makes my story stronger, but gives me an edge when it comes to the editing process.

One of my critique readers got back to me the other day with some lovely comments about how my work is always so easy to read. It's not perfect, she finds holes and always has great suggestions, but she finds she can breeze through my books, because the story structure is solid.

I put that all down to pre-planning.
When it comes to story structure and character development, if I have it all sorted before I even start writing the manuscript, my work is half done. Sure, my story can change and evolve as I write, but I tend not to deviate too much. All my thinking and working through story glitches goes on before I start draft one. I can avoid writing scenes I don't need to. Yes - I go back and sometimes add scenes in later, but at least I'm never deleting huge blocks of text - something I always find incredibly painful.

Last night I was thinking over the planning I'd done throughout the day. Something wasn't quite working and it wasn't until I'd walked away from my computer that it came to me. I was coming at one character's motivation from the wrong angle. Today I have spent time adjusting the scenes I'd mapped out to give my character a more realistic backstory and motivation for why she was doing what she was doing. Because of this change of tact, one of the other characters in the story has gone from a soft, almost lovable character to a bit of a hardass, but it's made the story better. I'm so glad I thought of it now and not in the middle of my draft. Having to go back and do rewrites is time consuming and sometimes really awkward. My mind is constantly whirring during the planning stages and I relish the little things that come to me, especially when I'm not working at my computer.

With each new book I seem to refine my system a little more. I think I used to plan too much, go into too much detail that I wouldn't read over again. I've just finished planning for a new series I hope to publish early 2014. I've cut back on my planning a little this time around and I'll be interested to see how this effects my first draft.

Until you press publish, a story is an ever evolving thing, as is the writing journey. I have gone from a non-planner to a thorough planner to someone who now plans what they need in order to get a decent story going. No doubt once this project is done, I'll refine my methods a little further.

How do you work?
Are you a planner? A panster?
How has your writing style evolved over time?


  1. I think that some form of planning is absolutely essential to forming the bones of a good book.
    Personally, I like to plan out the structure of the book, and have all of the backstory fully formed in my head before I launch into writing. That means nailing down character motivations, defining turning points in the story, and then the rest of the time - I plan out the scene before I start writing for the day. Before I know it, the whole thing starts to slot together nicely.
    My notebooks are my best friends. I carry them everywhere with me - and if I get an inkling of inspiration from somewhere, I jot it down. It contains maps, character relationships, scene notes, things I need to remember, names, and all sorts of other nifty little bits that I may need sometime.

    1. I love that! Notebooks are so vitally important for writers. I love having this precious diary full of random notes that most people will never understand :)
      We work in similar ways, Leigh :)