With P, Thoughts on Planning

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You know what they say about the early bird.

IMG_9606 IMG_9612 IMG_9639 IMG_9644

I admit I kinda felt for that worm. But nature. Also, it wasn’t early, it was afternoon, but you get the gist.

What’s that, hypothetical reader? No, that wasn’t just an excuse to work in these pictures from my Chicago Botanic Garden excursion reminding us how glad we should be that the only remaining dinosaurs snack on worms, not us. I mean, do you see that eye? DO YOU SEE IT?! If it wasn’t a cute little robin, it would be terrifying.

But that’s not what this post is about.

With the A-to-Z Challenge, there are scores of bloggers who planned out their posts in advance, selecting a theme. Many of them are you! No, no, not YOU, hypothetical reader, I mean the fun, interesting, awesome people who have been stopping by this month. No, hypothetical reader, I’m not saying you’re not fun, interesting or awesome. Can we talk about this later? In private?

Anyway, I am not a planner. I don’t plan my blog posts. When I got the A to Z emails talking about theme reveals, I laughed internally. I often don’t know what I’m going to write about until my fingers hit the keyboard.

I’m like that with my novels, too. I couldn’t plan what my characters were going to do or how they would react if I tried, because they often fight me at every turn. Margaret, the protagonist of Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) battled with me the whole way through that book. She’s an obstinate one.

There’s no one right way to approach writing. Some of us are born panstsers (writing by the seat of our pants, thank you NaNoWriMo) and some of us are planners. I suspect that inside the heads of planners, Chopin plays in airy open room as the characters politely pick up their lines and move effortlessly from plot point to plot point.

Inside my head (I won’t speak for other panstsers) drawers hang at perilous angles. Papers, strewn everywhere, flutter in the breeze from a leaky metaphoric window, catching on piles of plotting laundry and squabbling characters. The blinds are crooked, and someone keeps putting on the kettle to boil, but never actually makes the tea.

Yet somehow, eventually, the floors are cleared and shiny, the characters get to where they were heading, making promises of future plans, and that cup of tea is enjoyed in a sweet, completed silence.

In or near Chicago? Check out our sketch comedy revue, “Me Inside Me Presents: Neurotrash.” Saturdays at 10 pm, May 7, 14, 21 & 28. Click here for tickets.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

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50 thoughts on “With P, Thoughts on Planning

  1. Usually when it comes to blogging I’m on Team Seat of Our Pants, but for this challenge I’m on Team Plan Ahead. Should I ever do this challenge again I’ll revert to my normal self and wing it, but I’m in this far with my theme, so why not see it through?

    • You seem to be doing a great job with it, and I’ve definitely learned from it! For me, I think planning ahead makes it more daunting, rather than easier.

      But then again, I haven’t done it for this challenge, so I could consider trying it…I’d probably deviate on the first post.

      • Thanks. Laughing here. This challenge has been good for me because it’s reminded me how much I dislike being structured when it comes to writing. I feel like I’m writing a research paper more than a blog post.

  2. Did you know, that all earthworms in North America are descended from European stock, accidentally imported with the roots of plants? Makes you wonder what those robins ate before Columbus.

  3. I always want to be a planner. As in, I drew up a spreadsheet last year after A to Z, where I listed all the topics from 2015. I had grand plans to determine all the entries for this year, and as the year progressed, take appropriate pictures so that when April came, I would just be able to post all my carefully staged pics.

    Yeah. That didn’t work. I have no idea what is coming from day-to-day, but you can bet that I am working on that spreadsheet in the hope that 2017 will prove different!

  4. I work for engineers. I’d never survive as a Pantster.
    Plan, plan plan! On my big solo road-trip a few years ago (I wrote about it for B), I had it all printed out, mileage, stops, lodging, including what to wear each day. I deviated once to extend a stay by hours, and once to take a hotel instead of camp in the rain.
    After getting married, my non-planning husband got to do his pantster-ing in between my pre-planned stops. We had a wedding (my M post) and flights, but a lot of flexibility.

    • That sounds like you’re a good balance! Most of us pantsers need a good planner in our lives.

      Hmm, maybe being so organized is how you’ve managed to see so much of the world…lesson in that maybe?!

      • I grew up surrounded with planners and probably picked up some tricks.
        Planning our next big trip, it’s hard to leave things to chance – so I started a pinterest board that Pantster and I can both edit, so we have an idea what we’ll do. He has one responsibility: Find our transport to and from the airport.

      • Where are you going? Or do you not want to say? I can’t believe there’s anywhere you haven’t seen yet 🙂 That’s a really great idea. And airport transport can be tricky.

  5. Linda

    While I picked a theme for the A to Z Challenge, that is as far as I got. Truth be told, I am really a panster trying to pretend that I am a planner living in a planner’s world. I am happy to know that I am not alone in this blogging journey. Good luck wth the remaining letters!

  6. Ha ha, I love this post! I’m with you all the way. I write better without planning, probably because inspiration is my fire. And you are so right about novels. I’m working on one and I swear the more I plan, the more the characters are like, “Nope! Wrong!” – Or they just go on strike ha ha.

    • I know! They can be so uncooperative, and the funniest part about it is usually they’re right! I mean they’re fictional, what do they know?! Apparently a lot.

  7. I like your bird pics and would not have know they’re not from the morning had you not confessed! I confess that the idea of planning blog posts bothers me. I don’t see blogging as a planned platform. I like blogs that respond to a moment in time, a news item, a social event, a personal thought, etc. It’s a genre thing. I didn’t sign up for the A to Z Challenge until a few days before it began, so I’m way down on the list and missed the “theme reveal.” Glenda from
    Evolving English Teacher

    • Thanks! Yes, I just couldn’t get away with it, though the light could have been early morning, for sure.

      I agree with you, I’ve said this before but I feel as though blogging is a casual conversation, and when you come to a conversation with talking points, well, someone’s either trying to sell you something or you’re about to get dumped.

      I did the same thing the first year I did it, and apparently every year thereafter, because you’re not that far down from me from the list!

  8. “There’s no one right way to approach writing. ” I love this quote. In my real world I am an organized, planner and over-thinker. In my imaginary worlds I create I am the opposite of all that – the characters guide me and I just follow them. I rarely know what I will say when I sit to write. I love living in that side of my brain – it’s a break from my reality.

    • Aww thanks! But seriously, as long as you get words on the page…or the screen as the case may be, no one needs to know how messy a process it can be 🙂 Unless, you know, you blog about it, like someone else I know who may or may not be me.

      Time after time, I’ve found if I relax and let my characters just be themselves, it all works out, sometimes in ways I never saw coming.

      Which is quite an experience.

      • Thanks for the advice – I’m still trying to get my footing in the world of writing – and it is an encouragement to know I’m not alone in my thinking.

      • Absolutely not! 🙂 It’s absolutely necessary to find what works for you. Writing is challenging enough without feeling you have to do it a certain way.

  9. I always write my blog posts a month in advance. Always have. I don’t know why. But I’m working on late May’s posts now. That REALLY helps during A to Z because I just have to worry about commenting and reading (which is mucho time consuming in itself!). But when it comes to novel writing, I don’t plan. I just sit down and see what comes out. I get to around Chapter Three and start coming up with a synopsis…mostly because that’s what I show my agent to help her decide whether I should finish it or not–three chapters and a synopsis. I find the story really comes together if I kick it off, then shape it. I guess I need for the characters to talk to me first!

    Stephanie
    http://stephie5741.blogspot.com

    • It’s amazing how much the characters guide the action. Sometimes when I’m stuck plot-wise, I have to go back to the characters…what do they want? What are they willing to do it? What aren’t they saying?

      A MONTH in advance?! I can’t even comprehend it. That’s really impressive. And you’re right, it’s the visiting and commenting that takes up the time…but I think is the most fun part 🙂

  10. I’m a committed planer of everything from blog posts to novels… but that might explain why so little gets finished… I’m still at the planning stage and listening to great orchestral pieces by Shostokovich – or however his name is splet.

    • I know who you mean, but I have no idea so that seems close enough for me! I’ve found with pretty much everything in my life, it gets messy before it gets better. I wish I could do things that neatly!

  11. Last year I was a pantser for the challenge but only because I learned about the challenge close to the start date. I’m a plotter by nature. This year, I had about a third of my posts written in advance and copious notes/drafting on another third. The one benefit of that I found is that I have a lot more time to look at other people’s blogs. I barely did at all last year.

  12. I’m so glad you came by my site and visited my A-Zs, Isa-Lee. What a good writer you are, and I especially like the next to last paragraph in this post about drawers hanging askew and papers flying — I can see this clearly, so imaginative.

    I sometimes think the best writers are the pantsers. It’s nearly impossible for me to plot my writing — it spoils the whole thing, I think; too controlling.

    Samantha Mozart
    http://thescheherazadechronicles.org

    • Aw, thanks, Samantha! I agree, I can’t plot that way, I’ll lose interest in it. And I always love a moment when my work surprises me!

      Thanks so much for the return visit, and I look forward to going back to yours…the pictures were so lovely.

    • But maybe you really needed to be at Point Z because that’s where it’s AALLLL going down? That’s how I look at it as a pantser.

      I wish I could plan. No one ever cooperates.

  13. In writing terms, I’m a pantser at heart, but I’m learning that the lack of planning takes me up alleyways and then leaves me there (‘cos I don’t have regular time to write and so I forget where the hell I was going). Last year’s A-Z was pure pants, this year I’d all but 3 posts written in advance (thank goodness as life has been an absolute cow). But even with the pre-writing, I messed up by having three genres which were similar, following one after another which I didn’t notice until I hit day three and then decided on a re-write of Q, only not to get time to do it till R was already here . I still gotta get through R-Z, so there’s room for more slapping …

    • Oh I identify, I have to go back and reread what I’ve done to try to figure out where I’m going. But sometimes blind alleys are awesome because you notice the fire escape.

      You know, I hadn’t really thought about the tricky letters ahead…hmm. And I feel like I missed the similar posts, which makes me think I haven’t read your blog in a couple of days, which means I have some catch up reading to do!

      Overall, I feel like it’s been easier for me to just go with what I’m thinking, using the letter as a prompt. Maybe I’ll try planning next year (I totally won’t. But I like to imagine what I’d be like if I did).

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