Friday, 17 May 2013

How To Plan

Planning is something we do every day, sometimes deliberately, sometimes subconsciously. 
The way plans really work is to write them down. Just as I wrote this talk down first. (And deleted the waffle. Oh the waffle!) 

Setting Goals:
A mountain climber doesn’t wake up one morning and set out for Everest on a whim. In the same way, a writer can’t simply ‘decide’ they’re going to write a novel in one day.

The Novel is the Mountain:
We’re standing at the bottom of it, looking up. It’s insurmountable from here. Especially as we haven’t done the training and we don’t have the equipment. Just as Hillary couldn’t get up Everest without Sherpa Tenzing and a tank of oxygen, we can’t write a novel without the equivalent in chocolate and cheer squads to help us navigate the way.

The non-writer’s idea of Goal setting:

Step 1. Write a novel
Step 2. Get it published
Step 3. Profit

Which is a lot like the underpants stealing gnomes in South Park.
1. Collect Underpants.
2. ? 
3. Profit!

Publishing is changing drastically. Advances are falling. I hear publishers in the UK are cancelling contracts. (I don’t have hard data, but I’ve heard it now from two personal sources so maybe there’s some truth in it?)

Back to setting goals:
As the mountaineer begins a rigorous training regimen over many months, so too must a writer. Writing every day flexes the creative muscles and gets them in top shape.

So here’s how writers really plan. We plan by setting goals for ourselves, then breaking things down into smaller and smaller achievable steps along the way. Measurable steps. Achievable steps.

1.Write down your goals

2. Create a PLAN

3. Break the plan down into achievable steps

4. Do the steps in order

5. Reward yourself each time you reach one of your steps.

6. Keep Going. 


Stage One.
1. Have an idea.

2. Write it down.

3. Write every day.

4. Read books you enjoy.

5. Read books you don’t enjoy.

6. Write every day.

7. Read about structure.

8. Read about plotting.

9. Read about creating believable characters.

10. Write every day.

11. Write though the saggy middle.

12. Write every day.

13. Write the black moment where all seems lost, there is no way out and love is not enough.

14. Read more books that you love and hate.

15. Write to the very end.

You have completed a novel. Congratulations. 
Now put it away and start again.
Have another idea.
Write another novel. Repeat steps 1-15.

What’s not in the plan?

Blogs, websites, twitter, facebook and the rest of them.

Personally, I wouldn’t worry about blogging or building a twitter following at this point, because it will take time and energy away from finishing the novels.

Would you open a furniture store if you were still whittling? No.
Editing isn’t in the plan yet. Editing is the next stage.

1. Take the manuscript you haven’t looked at for three months

2. Read it without making any changes.

3. Read it out loud to get a sense of the flow and dialogue.

4. Have you made it to chapter 2 without cringing? Good for you.

5. Edit

6. Edit some more

7. Edit

8. Edit some more

9. Is it worth saving? Probably not. Set it aside and start on a new manuscript.

These multiple stages and myriad steps highlight how long it takes to write novels, and how much effort and work goes into them.

If you’re impatient or setting yourself impossible deadlines, your writing will suffer. Take time to make all the mistakes now, in private, instead of rushing to publication before you’re ready.

Stage three


1. Research.

2. Research.

3. More research.

4. Yet more research.

5. Even more research.

6. Figure out if you need an agent.

7. Find out if that agent is taking queries. If not, go back to step 1.

8. Find out if your chosen publisher will accept unsolicited manuscripts.

9. Craft a query letter or pitch for your chosen agent or publisher.

10. Throw it away, it will be terrible

11. Craft another query letter.

12. Get a friend to help you make that letter make sense.

13. Read, read and read more on how to write a proper query letter.

14. Follow the agent or publisher’s query guidelines exactly. If they don’t take romance, there’s no point in sending them your romance manuscript.

15. Steel yourself for rejections. They are a fact of life.

The ‘publication stage’ can take months or years. Use that time to read more books and write more novels.

If all these stages and steps look like far too much hard work, you’re right. It is hard work. If you don’t want to do the hard work, that’s OK. You can still write and gain enjoyment from writing. Nobody is going to stop you.

But if your ultimate goal is to be published in the traditional sense, by an advance-paying publisher, then you can’t skip any of the steps.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu.

“The phoenix can fly only when its feathers are grown.” Monkey Magic.

No comments: