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Header Image of map with alternate routes and pins reflecting Planning & Discovering


Planning & discovering are both key components of writing. It’s great to have a plan, but a plan by definition is generally flexible.

So here I am in the mushy middle of my work in progress and writing forward but I’m feeling a bit lost. Not lost  as in not writing, more like I am hacking my way through the jungle right now.



I had a plan and it is/was a good plan. I developed a solid Inside-Outline. A sturdy scaffold with all the tentpole scenes mapped out. The plan was based on a solid idea of who my character is and the arc that I want her to experience. So, I already know where she starts out emotionally and what she thinks she needs at the beginning, and I know where I want her to end up.

However, things got a little squishy because I just wrote one tentpole scene and then the other and I didn’t allow my initial chapters to breathe and grow as much as I think they need to, which is fine because sometimes the characters know better what they want to accomplish and how to proceed than I do. But it is also something I need to remain aware of.

I also found that when I decided to write the scene that was supposed to be my climatic scene it felt like there was still more to the story. It felt like the character needed to do and experience more before she could get to the point of having her actual epiphany.

So, I continued to write forward to find an even worse situation to put the character in. And I think I’ve discovered that. And I’m pushing her in that direction to see what will happen next. It’s not exactly to plan, but plans can and do change.



Sometimes as you write your way into the story, and you discover more about the character and their journey, you discover that what you had planned might not be the exact path they need to follow to get to where they need to be. And sometimes your characters will do things that surprise you, things that seem to come out of nowhere, and it can be worth letting them take the lead now and again.

I’m not saying that planning isn’t important or helpful. What I am saying is that a plan is like a map you pull up when you’re traveling across country. You basically want to get from California to New York and map that out and usually what pops up is a direct route.

But sometimes you want to veer off the beaten path, you want to leave that direct route and maybe go take in the sites. Maybe there’s a giant ball of twine you really want to see and you decide to detour for that.

It’s okay because you know where you want to end up, so you can take a detour, or zigzag across that direct route. You can take in the sites, go off a little way to see what tangents might be of interest and then come back to the path and can bring your characters back in line by the end of the book.



A plan is just a plan. It’s not a mandatory path that must be followed no matter what.

Some writers love a solid plan that they can stick to. They love knowing every stop along the way.

Frankly, for a writer like me, that would take a lot of the fun and joy out of writing. I still like to discover new things about my characters and my stories as I go along, and yes, sometimes it feels mushy and scary and like I’m driving in the fog without my headlights on.

But I have learned to trust the process. I know that ultimately my characters will end up where they need to be and, in the meantime, I get to follow along.

For me, that is part of the joy of creating and makes the process more satisfying.

That said, when I reach the end of this first draft, it may just turn out that I need to go back and adhere more closely to the initial plan. But I am okay with that, because those detours my character takes along the way will inform my writing and may provide some great fodder for deepening the story.



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