Thursday 5 May 2016

To plan or not to plan

[This short article first appeared as part of the online launch of The Writers' Toolkit which remains available on Facebook and contains articles, tips, mini-tutorials and editorial comments on work that authors submitted for critique prior to the launch]

To plan or not to plan
There’s no rule. Some writers plan in such detail they have an almost book-length plan before they start to write. Others just go by the seat of their pants. It really comes down to what works for you.

I once wrote a book on the basis of half an idea that I liked the feel of. I simply ran with it and wrote. The book became so tangled that by the time I finished it, I didn't even know who had been murdered, though someone had. And the intended murderer had a cast-iron alibi that I couldn't break. 

Years later a publisher accepted a later book in this same series and wanted me to rewrite that original tangle of words so that the start of the story could be published too. What a nightmare! I rewrote that book from scratch more times than I like to remember. I changed the viewpoint, the style, even the main character. I sorted out the plot and eventually I surfaced with a book that works.

I learnt my lesson from that. I don’t plot meticulously like Jeffrey Deaver or Agatha Christie, but I always know how the story will finally untangle. But I'm not saying that everyone should avoid that seat-of-the-pants style just because it got me in deep water. It’s what works for you that matters. 

The discussion continues in the comments thread following the original article.
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