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You’ve got to plan it first

The Seven Myths of Novel Writing

There are people who will tell you that you’re either a planner or a pantser – meaning that you either plan extensively first, or that you are an intuitive writer, and you don’t write to a plan. I’ve been debunking myths about novel writing and this is where Myth Number Five comes in: the Myth of Plan First and Write later.

This time I’ve written about it as a guest blog post on Jane Friedman’s blog, so I’m not going to repeat it here.

Here’s the link so you can read the article

Because I’ve been talking a little bit over the last few posts about how these ‘myths’ interfered with my own writing process, especially when I wrote my first novel, here are a couple of thoughts about how Myth Number Five affected me.

Rediscovering my folders

I used to think of myself as one of the intuitive writers who couldn’t possibly plan first. I didn’t have terminology for it – this was fifteen years ago – but I thought planning was restrictive and ‘uncreative’. I used to tell people so in interviews and at festivals. My first novel took me ten years to write (not full-time – I was working as well) so it’s not surprising that my memory was hazy. (For those who’ve been reading all of my ‘myths’ posts – this was the one I resisted setting in a hotel!) Much later, I rediscovered several folders of handwritten notes, plans, drawings, charts and research that I had kept up – like a journal – while I was drafting and redrafting. It turned out I had been planning, extensively, all along. I’d been planning it during the writing process.

Being a slow learner

It wasn’t until I started teaching novel writing, and writing about how it works, that (ironically) I learnt to do it myself. I’m a slow learner, but it’s good to learn slowly sometimes. I’ve come to an understanding of how planning a novel works over the last fifteen years. Gaining that knowledge has made the book I’m writing at the moment so much easier to conceptualise. I often find that teaching a skill to others, or writing about it, helps me to learn it myself – one reason why writing and teaching go so well together for some people.

Check out my post on the Myth of Plan First and Write Later over on Jane Friedman’s blog

The Seven Myths of Novel Writing – all seven posts in one list


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