The Concept of Planning

I have finished my second book. Which isn’t so much a “finally” as it is a “Really? You mean you’re actually done?”

This book was much faster than my first. My first (after three reviews and edits) comes in at around 92,000 words or so. It took me a year to finish the first draft. My second book is around 72,000. It took two and half months to finish.

In all fairness, the second was amid some very difficult jobs, school, and travelling all the time. The second was done faster because I have more time on my hands now that I am out of school. But for some reason, this was one harder to finish than my first. I could clearly visualize the first one from beginning to end. I didn’t always know exactly where things were going, but that’s half of the excitement for me.

I wish I could be like other writers and have a plan, write an outline, have the entire plot done, and know where things are going from the beginning to avoid any risk of writer’s block. But I can’t. My brain just doesn’t do it! It can be frustrating, but I need to just sit at the computer and write. Let things come to me and add words to paper, fix all those pesky continuity issues later, because worrying about them while I am writing drives me crazy.

I always hear writers talking about how they plan out a book. But here is my question. How important is planning? Because I can’t do it. Planning a trip, fine. Planning a meal, great. Planning a schedule, excellent.  A story line? No way! I figure that out as I go along. I don’t know much about characters until they actually start talking. I don’t know their intentions until they tell me. I don’t know what they are going to do any more than they do. I have to just plant my butt down and write. I might have ideas or pictures in my head of what is going to occur some day down the line for a character, but that’s it. Does anyone else work like this?

When I was in school, I would write most of my English or History papers in one sitting. I couldn’t do it any other way. And the first draft, was generally the one I turned in. I told I teacher once (big mistake) that this was how i worked because I generally got better grades when I just wrote it all out in one go. He told me that it was a completely reckless and irresponsible way to write. Which was probably true… but I always got A’s in the process. And he never knew the difference between a paper that was done in an afternoon versus one that had been hashed out for weeks.

I have never known any other way to write. And if i do get jammed or confused as to what comes next, I back away. Sometimes for a couple days. I will take a shower, go watch a movie, read… anything to get my mind away from it. My brain might revisit the plot a couple of times whilst I am daydreaming throughout those few hours and that is when I get the big ideas. I had no clue how my current book was going to end until my dad and I were sitting around watching TV (can’t even remember the show, although I think it was ‘Captain America,’ a very under-rated film), when a huge detail of the final plot hit me like a bolt of lightning. Followed by a “Ugh, dad, be right back. Gotta go write something down.”

Maybe it is a reckless and irresponsible way to write that way. Maybe it is a great way to end up with a huge case of writers block. But I would much rather do things my way and in the way that I know things work for me than stress myself out by knowing that most other writers might have a different formula for writing.

What i have is a writing notebook. I jot down ideas before they can leave my brain and that is the only thing I use to remember “plot” things. Which isn’t even true plotting. It’s more like idea generated throw up on a bunch of pages. And oddly enough, i hardly ever go back and look through it. It’s more of a reference so I don’t forget the small details I wanted to integrate into the story.

How do you sort out of a book or a short story? Do you plot it out? Write an outline? Please tell me that i am not alone in the world by simply sitting down and letting the story come to me as I go along…


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3 responses

  1. Brefaucheux

    Thank you for writing this post. This is a miracle! There are so many writers that deal with the same issues. I’m a college student that had to take an English course over the summer. The instructor insists that we write outlines for every essay we wrote to get full grade credit. So me being an amateur I am. I start noticing that the outlines were restricting my ideas and writing. It wasn’t allowing me to speak boarder and expand more on the subject. Even though I pass the class with a B, and create a habit for writing. I find outlining irritating and prefer more of an free writing style. I’ll edit every now and then, or as I go along. Sometime I know what direction I’m going, sometimes I don’t. I just go with the flow as the ideas come. Every now and then I’ll go back and rearrange, add or take something out. I just find my ideas and options unlimited but still intact, when free writing. So I have to agree with the post, it’s right on the money. To me outlining just takes the passion and fun out of it.

    This post just confirms and let me that I’m on the right track. I hope that this article save a lot writers time and error. Outlines aren’t meant for everyone, plan and simple. This is great inspiration and motivation, when every book and author on a youtube page saying outlining is mandatory. Brefaucheux you prove them wrong, by writing two books.

    – Alex

    • I am so glad that you appreciated what I wrote and that it seemed to help you. I know how teachers can bend your brain and force you to believe that there is only one way to write or one way to plan. That drove me insane when I was in college as well. I got to the point where I just did what they wanted to get the grade, get out, then go back to doing what worked for me. The same thing happened in an art class. The teacher wanted me to paint in a particular way that really made my work suffer. So when I got out, I went back to doing it my way.

      I have heard the exact same thing from authors on YouTube videos. What works for one writer might not work for another and there is no one way to get things done.

      Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I really appreciate it. You comment totally made my day. No one has ever called my writing a “miracle” before. I am thrilled that it was able to help you out.

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