I thought I’d do a pre-Christmas post about sticking to the plan when writing. Or not. You see I’ve found it hard to stick to the plan for my current story Teaching Mr Leavis (a romance).
In the past when I’ve begun working on a story, I’ve made a plan and mostly stuck to it. Not so with this story. This time, for some reason, I’ve veered quite far from the plan.
This has brought opportunities and complications. I’ve found that as regards the plot, I floundered quite a bit after the beginning. I kind of had an idea for the end (although that too has now changed), but I had no clue as to what should happen in the middle of the story.
Which obviously creates a problem. The thing is I’d only semi-planned what should happen in the middle of the story and when the story began to unfold in a very different way to what I’d initially planned, it was hard for me to rein it in, if you like, and bring it back to what I’d originally planned.
So I didn’t. I just went with the flow and although it’s been quite exciting, I would say that next time I’d rather stick a bit more closely to the plan. Because the thing is, despite appearances to the contrary, I’m a plotter not a pantser and while it was exciting to have the characters move the plot along in ways I couldn’t have expected, I also felt rather lost.
In general I’m a highly organised person. So when things don’t go according to plan, that can feel a little strange for me! But I’m the first to admit it has been interesting writing this story and doing it a bit more by the ‘seat of my pants’! I’ve been able to develop characters and change aspects of their natures. I’ve thought more about what really works in a romance,what readers of romance expect when they read one, and how I can fulfill their expectations.
The main problem I’ve found by not sticking to the plan is that the story is a lot shorter than I’d envisaged. I was initially aiming for around 70,000 words and it’s come out about 20,000 words short. I don’t think this is necessarily a problem though. I don’t know if you’ll agree with this, but it seems to me that ebooks can be virtually any length, that really anything goes. That’s just what I’ve surmised over the past couple of years through blogging and interacting with other authors, as well reading other indie authors’ books.
To conclude then I would say that for me as a writer, I work better and more productively when I have a more coherent plan to begin with. I would never say that I would stick religiously to it, but a good plan helps give the story I’m writing a good backbone, a good skeleton on which to build the flesh of my narrative. But writing Teaching Mr Leavis has definitely been an interesting process to explore what works for me as a writer.
So over to you. Are you a plotter or a pantser or a bit of both? How do you tackle the whole writing process?