Why Plans are For Winners… Who are Boring Losers

If you have been reading this blog, if you really LOVE me, then you know that I have written a book. I am currently working on my second novel while begging pathetically enticing agents to help me get the first published.

Read about: First novel. Second novel.

As I write, I have realized that as far as plans go… I’m like Scooby Doo and the mystery team going to arrest the villain.

It’s not that I don’t have a plan, only that I never follow it. I plan as well Harry Potter did before attempting to track down Lord Voldemort’s highly elusive horocruxes that could be hidden in literally any normal-looking object around the world or George Bush before he sent America to war.

Ok, I'm bad... but not THIS bad

Frankly, I don’t have much of a plan. Much like George Jr, I have the intention to “finish at some point,” but how that ending will go down, no one knows. But I feel that in novel-writing, unlike war, it is a good idea to have only a vague plan.

If you plan too concretely, you lose the fun of writing. Part of the greatness of writing is the same as reading which is that you get to be shocked. Sometimes, your characters do something that really shocks you… like, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Planning too far ahead, you know what’s going to happen, which means you will subconsciously implant foreshadowing too soon in a story. The major problem I have with most foreshadowing is that it’s too obvious– foreshadowing should be the clues that readers pick up perhaps on only the second read-through. If a reader knows already what will occur, why continue reading? If the authors implies that the main character will die, why keep reading? Death seems like a pretty finite ending, no matter how it comes about.

Ok, not THIS bad, but still.... it's pretty bad

I do start with an inkling of what will happen. I especially know what might happen in the next few chapters and where I want the characters to end up by the close of the story. I generally pre-write various scenes in the novel that have a lot of impact, but the small scenes… the little digressive forays into satirical depictions of the public school system and a scene concerning a secretive Ku Klux Klan meeting where the hooded members discuss allowing a black member into their clique… those are generally made up as I write. There’s nothing that boosts creativity like spontaneity.

It’s just like how I plan to get my hair cut but never do. But when I do, eventually… I’ll stop looking like Mick Jagger and have a realy cool hairstyle that doesn’t touch my shoulders. I feel so much like an eighties rocker.

It’s just like….. life, because that metaphor hasn’t been beaten like a dead cliche that happens to be ride-able like a horse.

I have plans, sure… I have dreams. I just don’t have very detailed plans. These plans do not involve explicit instructions with sub-points A, B, and C underneath I., II., and III. If I really planned so heavily, I’d be boring.

This post is especially devoted to you Nanowrimers out there who are plotting away your 50,000 masterpieces of crap and must plot on-the-spot. Don’t worry too much about a roadmap or plan. Just…. write. Surprise yourself, then surprise your readers. All the rest will either work out or not work out, either one; I don’t really know, since I have yet to plan that far.

Do you make plans?

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About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on November 6, 2011, in books, career, Characters, Language, novel, Poetry, writer, Writing, writing advice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Since life has always gotten in the way of my plans, I gave up planning. It’s worked well so far…

  2. I find that straddling the fence works for me. I kind of plan and then I kind of ignore most of it.

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