Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Be Prepared

Dib, dib, dib - dob, dob, dob and all that! Actually I wasn't a boy scout but I was in the Guides and was once promoted to the dizzy heights of the leader of the Blue Tits within my guide group - but I think the less said about that the better!

What being in the Guides taught me was the importance of preparation and planning, (oh and that I don't like camping) Things are more likely to go well if you have a contingency plan and a back up plan if your first plan goes to pot - as they often do. That's all well and good but what's it got to do with writing? Does having a plan ot two actually benefit writing?

If you will allow me to talk about plans in their wider context I will make a case both for and against having plans m'lud. In my own experience and against my better judgement I was advised by my midwife to make a birth plan - yeah right! As I was writing it I kept thinking, hang on a minute, the birthing process is totally unpredictable - anything can happen in the next 24 hours and probably will, so why bother planning? I eventually conceded and wrote a rudimentary one for the sake of my poor husband who wanted everything in black and white so he could use it as exhibit A in his defence should I blame him for the pain of childbirth and lack of pain relief when I stated - in black and white that - I wanted gas and air and that was it! But I knew it wasn't worth the paper it was written on because the midwife didn't even glance at it once when I was in labour - and I didn't give it a thought (well I was a bit busy at the time!)

Then there was the time I worked on the wards as a nurse. There was a fire policy, a major incidence policy and every other kind of situation policy you can think of. This was Planning with a capital 'P'. And quite right too, when you consider the amount of responsibility the hospitals have to ensure the safety of the patients, visitors and staff. But on coming on duty for one night shift I was greeted by a shrieking continuous fire alarm which means there's a fire in the immediate vicinity and everyone should be evacuated. Hang on a minute, though, there was no
one stopping me from getting on the ward and no one seemed to be evacuating. In fact everyone seemed to just be milling around. "Are we not evacuating?" I said. The senior nurse on for the hospital said not as she didn't think there was a fire!!! Luckily there wasn't - yet protocol says we should have evacuated at first ring of the continuous bells. Moral of the story? Plans are only effective if you follow them and they work! And never listen to your boss (the firemen who came were lovely, though!)

Now where were we, ah yes, planning in writing. Do I plan when I start a new writing project - well, yes and no really. I apologise for my vagueness but planning really is a hit and miss affair for me. I have all the best intentions but somehow life always gets in the way. I do try, honest, but I'm not the most organised person in the world and I may strive to start out in the best way but it quickly goes belly up when I get distracted and deface my plan, then lose it - it all gets ugly and very messy! But if you must make plans here are some of my tips (do as I say not as I do!! ;0) )

1. Get a big piece of paper or a notebook and lots of different coloured pens and make a mind map of the writing project you want to do. Use a separate sheet or different coloured pen for each strand of your idea: red for characters, blue for general plot, green for sub plots, black for themes etc and stick to these colours throughout your plan so you don't get in a pickle.

2. If you are anything like me (may your god help you if you are!) and you find that you scribble notes on the back of used envelopes, backs of old receipts or any old scrap of paper you can find then at least put them in some kind of organised storage/filing system so you can find them again when you need them. Take it from a woman with experience; I have wasted hours of valuable writing time searching for a vital piece of information I need for a short story never to find it again. It's infuriating so stop it now and get organised! Your writing and sanity will thank you for it. Moleskine notebooks have a handy pocket in the cover you can put things in to file away later (Julie drifts off into her fantasy Moleskine world and inhales deeply.)

3. Make sure you have a clear out of your filing system once a month (my tongue is firmly in my cheek here as if you could see the state of my piles you would log out of my blog!) I do try to do it but you know how it it (makes mental note to tidy desk and piles again ASAP.) You really will utilise your writing time more efficiently if you have a tidy writing space. I know it and I kick myself every time I let my piles get too high and my desk looks like it's been burgled!

4. Don't be rigid. Your plan should be flexible and have the ability to be adapted to suit situations as they change (Remember the birth plan). Don't get flustered or annoyed because your original plan doesn't work; it doesn't matter. What does matter is that you rewire your thought patterns to accept that nothing in life or your writing is for certain or set in stone. Lose the blinkers and your writing life will be less traumatic. Go with the flow as they say.

5. Have a white board you can write bits of your plan/ideas on and place it somewhere where you can't fail to notice it and can refer to it as you are working. A cork board will do the job just as well too. But do remember to update the info on it when you change something in your writing project otherwise it will get confusing (that's another excuse for a shopping trip to Staples then!) I like this planning lark!

I'm going to have a lovely pizza with my daughter at tea time and have already ordered it on line to be delivered for 5.30pm - hows that for planning?!

Julie xx


Teresa Ashby said...

I often plan to have a plan, but so far I haven't managed to get round to it. My filing system looks like the aftermath of a police raid on a paper recycling plant and I don't even know where the neat little box full of handy index cards that was going to change my life has gone!
I do like your number 4. I also like your mention of a visit to Staples in number 5 - I have to go there in the near future. Now that is a plan!

Hope you enjoyed your pizza!

Julie P said...

Hi, Teresa. Yes the pizza was lovely and I am happy and sleepy now! I went for a walk in the evening sunshine to walk off some of the pizza.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has a messy desk and filing system! You'd think we'd learn wouldn't you?!

A visit to staples should always be in the plan!!

Julie xx

Simon Whaley said...

I;m planning a v isit to Staples soon too! Thankfully, Staples and Wrekin Writers are located close to one another!

Julie P said...

Race you there!

Fee said...

Staples sent me a reward card this morning with £5 off so as soon as I can I will be going again very soon. I will be on the search for more moleskins.

Best wishes see you tomorrow.