Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Planning - and keeping to the plan

I wonder what effect planning has on other writers? There's a continuing debate over whether writing prose is a creative art form or a craft, like chiselling a detailed pattern on a decorative wooden table. My first book, CUT SHORT, was an undisciplined outpouring of ideas, mainly because I wasn't writing it with a reader in mind. I never expected anyone to read it. I wrote it simply because I started and couldn't stop. It was great fun to write, and I thoroughly enjoyed the creative buzz. Those of you who follow my author blog may recall that when my publisher sent my MS to an editor, I had something of a wake up call. 'Your poor readers won't have a clue what's going on.' So I reworked my rather self indulgent MS into a more coherent form which thankfully went on to receive positive reviews and a lot of word of mouth buzz, resulting in two reprints in the first six months.
I did plan the second book in my series, ROAD CLOSED, but despite my best efforts, I still ended up making some very last minute changes to the MS. (Not in my publisher's good books at the moment, I'm afraid.)
Now that I have an agent, he has encouraged me to write a full synopsis for my third book, DEAD END. Problem solved? You might think so. But now I have to try and stick to my synopsis... and I've already had to make three major changes...
I honestly find the writing is quite easy. It's the planning that I struggle with.
Am I unusually disorganised or is this the same for everyone? And does anyone have any helpful hints about planning books? Any hints, tips or suggestions will be very gratefully received - preferably before my third book goes to the typesetters...
Leigh Russell


  1. I'm terribly disorganized. And being a Librarian (as well as writer), you'd think otherwise, but I'm afraid that profession fools people.

    My writing desk is a haphazard collection of notes dating back from oh, I don't know, years maybe. I won't divulge further details except to say a writing boot camp may be in
    order for me.

    PS: Great blog here, lots of writerly inspiring discussion. I'll be back.

  2. Hi Terresa, and thanks for visiting us. I sometimes think fooling people is what writing fiction is all about, but I always imagined librarians would be models of organization... As for the haphazard collection of notes - let's not go there! I think I posted once about my countless illegible scraps of paper.
    By the way, where is that writing boot camp, and how do I reserve a place?

  3. I am the least organized person I know...And then my mother and sister walk into my house and fawn over my organization skills! But I don't plan or outline, and am not getting anything done. A synopsis sounds like a great idea, but is there anything wrong with straying from the original plan?

    I'm in for a writing boot camp!


  4. Hi Michele - There's nothing wrong with straying from a synopsis, as long as it's for a reason. If there's a way my original plan could be more plausible or dramatic (or, put less charitably, if the original idea was too farfetched or - dare I say the word - dull) then I'll change it.
    My problem is that I tend to get myself in a muddle. I can't seem to help it. One example (among many): a murder took place on a Tuesday. I changed that to Saturday. Except that in one later chapter someone referred to the murder as taking place on... well, you can guess the rest! Of course, the editor/proofreaders would have noticed, but there's always the worry that something will slip through. Name changes, alterations in times and places, ages, hair colour, all have to be right and any change can have repercussions later on. A detailed synopsis, in theory, avoids such problems. But, as you say, what if you stray from the synopsis... and does sticking to a plan too rigidly lose something of the creativity? And if you don't stick to the plan...
    I need a Writing Boot Camp with a very strict regime - with extra classes for inveterate muddleheads.