Friday, 8 March 2013

The best laid plans...

FACT - I've written two books.

FACT - Neither of them have been snapped up by an agent or publisher.

QUESTION 1 - Why not?

ANSWER - They're not good enough.

Okay, maybe that sounds harsh. I don't think they're bad as such, in fact I think they're pretty good. They both have a  strong concept, a decent plot, an original voice and some not bad writing. They've been read by a few agents and had some good feedback and I'm proud of that BUT - the fact is they're still not good enough.

QUESTION 2 - What can I do about it?

ANSWER 1 - Moan. I do like a good moan.

ANSWER 2 - Blame someone else. Agents. Publishers. The economic crisis. The changing book world. Evil leprechauns?

ANSWER 3 - Change.

So, that first involves working out what needs changing. It means evaluating my writing from a different perspective and making use of what I've learned. Not just about writing but about the business of publishing also.

...................................................Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth...............................................

                                                    Wait for eureka moment...

                                                                A- Ha!

Perhaps my problem is that I write organically. By that I mean that I write from an idea and a voice. I don't have any plan or plot in place before I start. I haven't thought through character motivations or themes or the wider picture in any way. Basically I make it up as I go along!
This has caused problems and led to huge rewrites and very intensive editing and still not working out as well as it should.

SOLUTION - Try planning.

So with my third book instead of jumping straight in like usual I've spent time working out an outline, looking at the themes I want to explore and developing my character motivations before I start. I've worked out the back story, I've drawn maps and surprisingly I've found it all quite enjoyable.
I'm not being too rigid, I don't have everything worked out and I'm happy to let a certain amount happen on the page but it's certainly a new way of working.

I'm hoping this will ensure a good structure to my book and allow me to develop themes and motivations as I go rather than trying to squash them in later during revision. I'd also like to think it will make the story deeper and stronger.


Well I haven't finished my first draft yet but I am a third of the way through and feeling very positive. Some of the fear and panic I usually encounter when I can't figure out what to do next or how to make something happen has disappeared because I've already worked it out.
Also I know what I need to seed in my story, what I have to focus on to make my characters motivations clear and that makes my writing more polished.

Of course it might not work. It might not be the answer but it's helping me and being able to try new methods and work differently is beneficial to me as a writer I believe. I still may be years away from the perfect book but I do feel that I've reached the next stage of my journey.

So what do you do? Planner or not? Do you have any tips that work for you??


  1. An interesting post and it's good to know other people suffer the same problems as me!
    With my picture books I always plan out where the story is going/how it will end etc. There's not much space to wander about!
    I'm currently working on/editing a Middle Grade story - and having exactly the same experience as you. Feedback tells me it's good, but just missing the mark somehow. Interesting thing is, I DID work out the plot before I started. Perhaps I need to spend more time on voice?!

    1. Hi Joolze, it always helps to know we're not alone in the struggle! To be honest, i'm not sure if the planing is the reason why my books haven't made it yet, perhaps it's just experience or the right idea or just a question of wrong place wrong time...but it is at least something I can try!
      Good luck to you with your work x

  2. I'm a bit of a pantser when it comes to my writing. I have a loose plan and idea where I'm going but I find I prefer to get stuck in and see what happens. But then I haven't landed a publisher yet either so maybe I should take a leaf out of your book!

    Best of luck and keep writing!

    1. Thanks Suzanne, no idea if this will actually work but it's all part of the learning experience! x

  3. Hmmm - I've written more than two, I do have an agent and she's one of the best and we still haven't quite sold a book. Of course we can always improve our writing but sometimes it is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time... try not to be too hard on yourself x

    1. Hi Kathryn, unfortunately I can't control luck so I'm doing my best to focus on my writing and making it as good as I can! Hopefully the combination will work at some point...for both of us! x

  4. I'm coming to the conclusion that, in my writing, it's about voice. Having spent 15 years as a current affairs journalist, I've spent the last decade playing with words, seeking out my own voice and not the one which suits the "house style" of whichever publication I'm working for. Some people have an original voice but struggle with other things.... it's part of the journey, isn't it?

    1. Hi Karen, hopefully being able to pinpoint what we need to work on is the first step to fixing it and getting to the point where we are writing the best we possibly can. Good luck to you! X

  5. This article clears all the doubts and confusions that will have issues while pretending & not getting there where they want to. Excellent Article!!!
    Great interview! Read Me Dead sounds like it has a really good story in there!
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