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

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

To plan or not to plan?

Since I finished the first draft of my NaNo novel last week, my daughter has gone back to school (yesterday) and I've gone back to the nursery/lunchtime job and reading with the older kids. But even though it's only been one day back to normality I am already finding myself frustrated at not having the freedom I've had over the past couple of weeks and my writing has suffered for it.

Don't get me wrong, I love my work at the nursery and I find reading with the older kids refreshing and worthwhile  -  but it stops me doing what I truly love and that's writing! I find that because I only work 1.5 hours in the middle of the day it is becoming an inconvenience as when I drop my daughter off at school and get back home and try to get down to some writing, I just can't get my head around getting some writing in the hour or so I have before I have to go back up to the school.

It's been great the past two weeks as I could sit for a good amount of time and get a good run at my writing - hence I was able to finish the first draft of the novel and do a couple of short stories. But I'm also aware how lucky I am that I only work part-time and have the opportunities to write that I do have. I have to get myself into the right mind-set and just get on with it  -  no matter how much time I have to write.

Of all the author interviews I've read, seen on TV and read in 'how to' write books, the message I see repeated again and again is that you have to make certain sacrifices to give yourself the time you need to write. I've heard countless writers say "I haven't finished my novel/short story/article/poem/non-fiction book because I don't have the time." They reckon they would finish it if only they had the time.

Some of them do make the effort and re-organise their lives/make time for their writing, but give up because they aren't prepared to keep at it  - the urge to write is not strong enough in them. There are, of course writers who go too far the other way and are totally ruthless about their writing and prioritise it over their family/relationships. I think it's important to find a middle ground where you get your writing done but are able to maintain family life too. Obviously your family has to come first, well, in my opinion anyway, but you have to have that certain level of determination and maintain it if you are serious about your writing and want to succeed. And to get the right balance between your writing and your home life you need to plan.

With the NaNo novel I didn't plan it. It was spontaneous and I just wrote what I wanted without going back and reading what I'd written previously. It was a wonderful experience and I hope I can repeat it this year. But now I've finished the first draft of the NaNo novel I've has an idea for another book for younger children. But I had a dilemma: do I go barefoot and fancy free again, or do I sit down first and plan it in detail?

In the end I decided to try it the other way and plan it. I have already typed a sheet of A4 full of details and soon I will break this down into character information, plot line, chapter synopsis (a blow by blow account of what happens in each chapter): the beginning, the middle and the end. The characters are already alive and thriving in my head - they're even having conversations amongst themselves! I can see them as if they were real people - their physical appearance, mannerisms, speech patterns - they're all there. I just need to find the time to get it all down on paper! No excuses. I only have myself to blame if I don't make the time to write it.

What does everyone else do? Do you plan your writing in detail before you even start to write it or do you start writing and see where it takes you?

I used to make plans every week of what I was going to write but most of the time it would go pear shaped and I wouldn't get it all done. I think part of the problem was that I was expecting too much of myself and giving myself too much  to do in the time I had to do it. Now, I still make a writing agenda but I don't put so much on it and instead of being a daily agenda I just note down, in order of priority, which writing projects I want to complete that week. It's less complicated and it's achievable. I think if you set writing goals that you know you have the time and ability to complete, it can give your self confidence a boost. It can also motivate you to up your game and push yourself - but not too far where you take too much writing on again and go into melt down!

Happy writing

Julie xx


Carole Anne Carr said...

Hi Julie,

Well done with your novel, you sound as though you are making great strides with it.

If I don't plan the outline, I end up rewriting many times. I've added most of the books I've finished or started - on my blog - in the hope of motivating myself sufficiently to get on with it. I'll see if it works!

Try not to spend time doing one thing and wanting to enjoy something else. Enjoy each moment that is different, as I'm sure you will. Hugs.... Carole xx

Mike said...

I have to have a plan, especially for the crises and ending, if only to give me confidence that an ending is possible and it won't be an anticlimax. Sometimes the characters refuse to follow the plan and insist on telling their own story, and that's usually better. But I have to have a Plan B, in case they behave themselves.

Mike xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Carol

That's what's worrying me slightly - having to go through the unplanned NaNo novel and unravelling it. I'm sure I've gone off on several tangents throughout it, so I need to do a full edit on it and everal more after that I should imagine!

I'm enjoying working on something else while The NaNo novel is brewing!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Mike - yes it is exciting when the characters take over! I'm hoping by planning my next book I'll save myself a lot of hassle later - it's going to take a lot of work to try and sort out the NaNo novel but I'll have a good try at it!

Julie xx

Sue Ross said...

Hi Julie, just seen your article in LSM and it's smashing. Well researched, well written, well done!

Now, could you have written that article without your experience of being a volunteer reader?

No, I thought not.

So what's next for LSM?
Or have you tried Parenting magazine? They deal with pre-school kids as well as babies so you'll be able to draw on your recent nursery experiences as well as using you wealth of nursing knowledge.


Kate said...

I have to at least know where I'm going and these days I tend to plan a lot more than I did - but I still like the unexpected things that happen along the way.

Jaye said...

Congrats on the NaNo, I envy your application! Some things I write with just a basic premise (short stuff) longer stuff has been brewing in my head for ages - you're so spot on about finding the time. I'm effectively full time working now, so I've got a cleaner in - and that's taken a lot of frustration out of my week, nothing worse than putting off writing because you feel you ought to dust!

But if all goes well, I'm going to drop some hours out of the 'day job' to sort that film script out!

Julie P said...

Thanks, Sue! I really enjoyed writing that piece despite all the hassle from the charity! Thanks for telling me about that mag - I hadn't a clue it existed. I probably could have written the piece without me being a volunteer reader but it wouldn't have had that personal touch - I know how rewarding it is because I do it - write about what you know and all that jazz! I am going to pitch a couple of more ideas to LSM and will also approach a parenting mag with some ideas - as we know by experience, Sue, you don't know until you try!
Hey we got in The Link together too with Mr Whaley - fantastic eh?

Keep writing! Are you going on the retreat again this year?
Julie xx

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Kate

Yes I think it helps to keep the writing fresh as well as giving the writer some incentive to keep writing if there are some areas of the novel that they are ensure of how it will pan out.

The worst thing is if you start writing a novel thinking the ending will come to you in a flash of inspiration by the time you come to write it but it doesn't! Much better to have a plan A, plan B and a Plan C to choose from I think or at least some inkling of a clue as to how it's all going to end.

Good luck!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

It'a all about balance isn't it, Jaye. I had a good 12 months gap year from work and did reasonably well at the article writing but failed miserably at the short story writing. I didn't go back into nursing but had to take on work at the school/nursery so I could buy printer cartridges and stamps and the like (plus food of course!)

I love the nursery work, but it does stop me from writing as much as I'd like too - it's nice to have my own money now for a few things rather than rely on my husband - not that he begrudged me and he agreed to me not going back to nursing and has been supportive of my writing from day one which is a great help. But I still live in hope that I will, one day, be able to earn enough from my writing to do it full-time.

Good luck with your writing endeavours too!

Julie xx