Planning and pesky characters


Artwork by Amber Martin

I don’t write plot plans or outlines and this blog explains why.

If you follow regularly you’ll know I’m rubbish at planning what I write, preferring instead to let the story develop as the words (hopefully) flow from subconscious to computer screen.

However after writing my post about the Chicken House / Times children’s book competition, I decided to write a plot plan for my young adult novel, Dragon Wraiths. I had an idea where the story was going, haven written half of it, so it seemed a safe, logical thing to do, particularly as I haven’t got long to draft and redraft before submission in September / October. I hoped that a plan would help me get all the continuity right first time and save some long-term pain. All good.

Except the pesky characters won’t do what they’re told.

I’m two chapters into my ‘plan’ and already I’ve added a whole new section to the novel, extending it from 3 parts to 4. I’ve changed a good character into a barrier and rewritten the whole ending. Twice.

So far my adherence to the plan resembles my children’s colouring: The lines are there only to be scribbled over. As a parent I have tried to let my kids colour how they like, seeing it as too controlling to tell them to colour inside the lines. Am I giving a free-rein to my own creativity by scribbling all over my own plot plan, or am I just scatty?

I have also discovered that, while I find it almost impossible to summarise a chapter into one line, it is easy for one line of planned plot to become two or three chapters.

I have written 7,000 words today and covered only two lines of plot plan.

They find the missing girl and she agrees to help takes no account of how hard it turned out to be to find the girl or the fact that she was rude and uncooperative when they did find her. My whole story depends on the girl being helpful: I didn’t expect her to have a mind of her own. In twenty words of dialogue, written while walking the dog, she has destroyed my whole plot outline with her rudeness. Grrr.

So I am ploughing ahead without worrying too much about the plan. It is still useful as a guide for key plot developments, particularly for the sciency bits that are not my strong point. As for the rest, even I don’t know if the darn woman will help out in the end, or finish up being written out of the book entirely.

That’ll show her.

8 thoughts on “Planning and pesky characters

  1. 7000, that’s pretty incredible especially with two young kids! I hate planning and outlining too, but I find once I have my first draft I like having some sort of guideline when i revise. As for pesky characters…I know what you mean :s

    • I can only write when the kids are at nursery, so I have a target of 10,000 words a day on the two days a week I get. It’s not the same as writing every day but at least it gives me the chance to get into a flow. Only works on first draft: Once I’m in to editing and revision my work rate drops right off!

  2. Wow, 7000 words in a day – I’m impressed! I am also useless at planning. I start off with good intentions and create the beginning of a plan but then I get bored of the planning stage & desperate to start the actual writing. So most of the time I dive in and see where it goes – often to nowhere!

    • Thank you for your comment! I only used to be able to write several hundred words in a go, but a few years of Nanowrimo has done wonders for my ability to just write and write. Last November I had an art exhibition up at the same time, so I ended up having to write something daft like 18,000 words in the last two days. I managed it and it seems to have unlocked an ability to write big chunks. I can’t do it every day because I run out of ideas! But because I only get a couple of days a week, the ideas have often been bubbling away in my mind just waiting to come out. If I get stuck I take the dog for a walk, as that is when I write my best dialogue (or my blog posts). There is something about the pace of walking that makes dialogue come into my mind. Just as well I can walk and tap out text messages at the same time! Except when it’s raining of course….

  3. Pingback: The Art of Dialogue « the daily creative writer

  4. Pingback: Perfection and Writing: Two Words that Don’t Get Along | Plot Configuration Parameters

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