Whose in Control of Your Outline?

To plan or not to plan, that is the question that we plan to answer today, but hey, who knows what I’ll end up rambling about by the end of this post!

Anyway, lets just imagine you’re sat here staring at a blank page, you have this idea in your head, this event that has sparked something inside of you, and now, you want to write about it. But! Do you sit and plan it, or do you just start writing?

It’s sounds, and feels great having an outline, having a start and an end, but there’s something else there as well. Something that will throw you off your course if your too meticulous, if you never stray from the outline you created. And that is your characters.

Your characters are the first point and call that your readers will know off, their the ones who might tell the story, or show the reader how the story ends up; and most of the time, they grow and stray away from the people you thought they would be, and with that, comes plot holes and mistakes and things that wouldn’t necessarily happen if the characters were allowed to grow naturally with the plot.

Obviously, if your characters are already full developed before you start on the outlining of your plot, it’s much easier to plot it, and to stick to it and not have all those plot holes, etc. However, your characters need to be willing to take control and drive your plot where you want it to go, and for this, you need to know how they will react to certain things, and you have to make them real people.

Obviously, you could sit and write a profile about them. You know, all the basic things – name, age, appearance, personality, but, they also have to grow, they have to develop, because every day changes you, so it should change you’re characters as well. It makes them more relateable, and more real for the reader, and sometimes, you won’t know how a character will react until you’ve written about them going through whatever you want them to go through.

For example, do you know straight off the bat if they: Would give a penny to a homeless man? Would they choose to spend a night in or go out? Would they live without regrets? Would they sacrifice themselves for a stranger? Would they lie? Would they kill? Would they fall in to a depression?

The only way you’ll truly know is if you write about it. You know the events and tests that your character is going to go through, and how they end up will depend on them. With enough planning, it can work, you can flesh out your characters perfectly, and they will do and act the way you want it to happen, but, then perhaps you feel like adding something different, and you don’t want to because you feel like you need to keep to the plan that you’ve written.

It’s good to plan your novel, or short story, especially if it’s intricate and complex (even if it isn’t, its good to plan), but you need to remember that it’s a tool to help you, and the last thing you should do is let it be restrictive. The structure of it has to be flexible, and it has to cater to the people you put in to the plot as it can feel like they’ve completely taken over – which can be hard if you’ve already planned it.

My current WIP is a big quadrilogy, and it’s been planned in the sense that I know what’s semi-going to happen, and who’s going to die, who’s going to live, and how they get from the beginning to the end, but I’ve not outlined it in the sense that I know every little bit of how the story will go. Perhaps I let the characters dictate the plot too much, but, half-the-time, it never wants to go the way I want it to, and, it’s kind of exciting to learn about the characters in their own way then plan out the way I want their lives to go. I think if they have the same mind-set as you, they somehow work towards that end goal you have planned, just a bit differently to how you plotted it out.

So, I think what you really need to is sort of be a planster, which I guess is the word for someone between a planner and a non-planner. The plot needs to be flexible, because you can plan from the beginning to the end and something might happen, you might get a wave of inspiration for a new character who wasn’t necessarily part of the plan, or the end of a character might feel more right than letting them go on.

And whether you plan it or not, editing is horrible, but is also a writers best friend. And, you can start writing even without a definitive plot!

Obviously, it’ll be different for each person, but I know people who have been planning for years and never get to the writing.

Sometimes its better to just start writing and plan it along the way! And that way, you will find whats best for you!

I hope you have a great day, and…

Just Keep Writing!


Writing: Don’t worry about how long it takes!

I had something really nice scheduled for this weeks post, but instead of peanut butter cookies, a perfect treat for all us writers may I just add, I’ve decided to write this!

I always find that writing is the easiest way for me to express myself, and even make me decide what’s best in some situations. This time, it’s all about how long it takes for you to finish your novel, or anything in life really (perhaps your saving for a house, a dream holiday, perhaps your working your ass off for a promotion you think your never going to get). It all boils down to one thing.

For me, it’s all about my ‘finished’ manuscript. These last couple of weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that my current WIP needs a revamp. I know, in an older blog post that I said that you never know when your novel is finished, not really, and that sometimes, you have to stop and take it to the next level, and I did that, I finally sent it out to agents, even got my first rejection letter, but I don’t know if it’s the books I’ve been reading lately, or just the doubts in my head that are trying to tell me that I need to take that step back.

I put my heart and soul in to ‘Tales of Monsters’, the first manuscript of four that I will finish some day, and there’s things in there that I could never change, things and people that are going to stay in there forever, but now I’ve been focusing on writing the second book (which I had already started writing, maybe three or so years ago) I’ve realised even more, as the story is progressing, that there are more inconsistencies in my plot, that some niggily little things just don’t add up, and they might be small in the first book, but in the second book, their so much more important than I’d thought they be.

Also, the more I write, the more I learn about this world.

I know it doesn’t help that I introduced a whole new group of characters, almost like an alternate story line about five drafts in, and before that, this character (and all the others who were never meant to be) wasn’t going to be introduced until maybe the third book, but, in the grand scheme of things, and the place he ends up, I needed to get to know him much sooner than I thought.

This story just started off as a Princess being chased from a burning castle, being chased by monsters and bandits, and all the bad, horrible things, and then ending up where she still ends up. It was all going to be about her and her journey, but she’s not the sort of person (or character, or whatever) to lead this sort of thing, and I only realised that as I got to know her more. I love her, but, the more I wrote, the more I understood where this was all going to end up.

It turned in to so much more than I could ever have imagined, includes so many things I thought it would never include. I built a whole world, or at least five Kingdoms, all with different people, all with different beliefs, all with different prophecies and ethics and morals, and I love what I’ve written in the first book, but I need to go back to it, I need to do that one last draft.

It is still out there in the literary agent world, festering in their inboxes, and we’ll just have to see how it goes. It’s not changing dramatically at any rate, I’ll probably have to cut about 40,000 words anyway, so I might as well start now.

‘Tales of Monsters’ might not be the first book I publish, I have so many idea’s for other novels and ‘stand alones’ that maybe they’ll beat her to it, but I love it enough to never give up on it! Even if I don’t ever publish it, it will be finished one way or another.

I’m also thinking of going down the route of beta readers. I use my parents and family, but I think I need to stop being so worried and just put it out there more. So, if anyone likes a bit of fantasy, a little bit of magic, some deadly prophecies and a bit of doom and gloom (more adult than YA I think, but still probably okay to read if your a bit younger), then send me a pm or leave a comment, and when I’ve finished with the edit, I’ll send it over to you!

For now, I think I’ll just keep posting little snippets of my story – the ones that are there to stay – on my instagram (jlmwrites) – and trying to better explain what this whole world I created is all about. It’s amazing how inspirational it can be creating pictures and drawings for the world your created, and having the support from other writers that are in the same boat as you (and obviously start working on that ‘final’ draft).

I guess what I’m trying to say is not to get discouraged, whether it’s because it takes so long to plan it, write it, edit it; whether it’s not working, you can’t find the time, or the motivation. If you believe in the end result, if you can put your hand on your heart and say that you can and will give your all to this book, then keep going, it might take five years, it might take even longer, but when it’s meant to happen, it will.

Also, don’t feel bad about realising that you might have to take a step backwards, whether it’s rewriting a chapter, the whole book, rethinking a whole plot idea or just, anything, you’ll get there in the end if you believe in yourself.

You can’t rush art, and don’t rush something that’s important to you. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Don’t compare yourself to that person who finished their manuscript, they went through everything your feeling right now. You are not alone, and most things in life never go to plan, so don’t worry so much about that finish line, enjoy your writing, because if you stop enjoying it, if you worry too much, it may turn in to something you resent, and that’s the last thing you want!

Just keep writing, don’t give up and like I said, when it’s meant to happen, it will. It doesn’t matter how long, just that you keep going!