Writer’s top tip – Plan ahead

Writers seem to love sharing tips and advice for improving their writing, and I’m afraid I’m no exception. When I visit other people’s blogs, I absorb everything I can and my love of top tips led me to subscribe to the London Writer’s Club’s ‘Stay Warm and Write Month’, which takes place in January. Every day they send you a tip to help you keep going, and while I managed the writing bit, the staying warm was somewhat more of a problem!

But it was during this month that a tip flashed into my inbox from author Jessica Rushton and I was delighted to find that it was one I’d already been using to great success. Her tip? When you have a lot to write, and only a short time to write it in, spend time at the end of each writing session planning what you need to write at the next one. Now, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I’m always complaining about my hour-long writing sessions not being enough, but you’ll also know I dearly love a plan so as you can imagine this tip works beautifully for me.

I tend to write in short bursts, but I always make time at the end of a session to work out what scene needs to come next. Sometimes I’m a really good girl and plan two or three scenes. The plans are never very detailed because I like my writing to be free-flowing (I’m definitely a ‘pantser’ not a ‘plotter’) but a couple of lines is enough that once I pick up my pen and open my notebook I know what I’m supposed to be writing. In fact, I’ll often spend 10-15 minutes before the session pushing the scene idea around in my head so that I figure out exactly what words the scene starts with. Once those words go down on paper, there’s no stopping me.

I find that planning each scene as I go along helps to keep my writing fresh. Although I have an overall plan in my head, and I know roughly where my story is going, there’s nothing on paper. I did a full book outline once and ended up so blocked that I just threw it into a drawer and never looked at it again. By planning one scene at a time, I can throw in a few curves, which means I – and hopefully my potential reader – cannot get bored. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work that goes into writing a novel but if you think of it as a series of 500-700-word scenes it suddenly becomes more manageable. Sometimes I do write too fast, too tightly and miss out descriptions, but for me that’s what second drafts are for – adding in information and editing what you’ve written.

But whatever way you write, always remember to leave yourself 5-10 minutes at the end of the session to plan what comes next. That way you’ll have no excuse for skipping the next day’s session because you’re tired or can’t think – the ideas will already be there for you and a guarantee you won’t be able to resist picking up that pen!

Have you tried this tip? Does it work for you? What other ways have you tried to keep your story flowing?

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