A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I have a confession to make – I don’t plan my books. If you knew me, this would probably seem pretty strange since I appear to plan everything else in my life. I’m that person who takes itineraries on holiday, I’m that person with scheduled to-do lists and a detailed life plan, but when it comes to mapping out a story, I don’t want to feel ‘boxed.’
That’s not to say that I swish around waiting for inspiration to strike either. My family have permission to slap me if I utter anything along the lines of, ‘I have to keep my creativity free,’ or something equally pretentious. When I am focusing on a book, I like to complete 10,000 words every five days. I am very strict about the physical act of writing itself (I generally write in short 500 word bursts) but when it comes to the content, I don’t want to lay down any rules.
My excuse is that I know that I will change it. As soon as I’ve plotted a series of events (and I have tried this several times to see if I would benefit from detailed planning) then I start changing them again. I begin typing or writing and immediately, a character does something that they aren’t supposed to. Or an alternative backstory that would fit much better than the one I currently have comes to me and I feel compelled to change it. If I kept a detailed plan, then I think that I would be constantly forced to alter it – rebelling against myself.
The easiest way for me to write is just to do it. I generally know the middle and the end of my book, but I let what happens in-between reveal itself slowly. My mum is a non-fiction writer and she’s often told me that this approach would completely freak her out, but I always reply that worrying about event sequences and plotting the highs and lows of drama would equally send me into a cold sweat. I’ve often thought that if I planned beforehand then it would probably make my editing process quicker, but committing myself to a plot – even a plot set out by myself – makes me feel uncomfortable.
I love to hear how other people plan (if you can, please do leave a comment below and let me know how you plan your stories). Writers have told me that they write detailed personal profiles for characters or write the middle and end of a book and then fill in the rest afterwards. Someone once told me that they plotted individual scenes before writing them and someone else said that they wrote the whole book backwards! All of these writers had brilliant work and a completed book of which they were proud.
So I don’t think that it really matters how you get to ‘the end,’ it’s just about getting there. You can buy lots of great books and read tons of informative articles about how to plan a novel, but the best way is probably the way that most naturally suits you. Testing different methods is always good, but you don’t want to make things harder for yourself. Whether you’re a detailed planner, a scheduled plotter or a make-it-up-as-you-go-along, the most important thing is to finish.
And after that, it’s all about the editing.
Rose Mannering is an English writer and international author. She signed up with literary agency Creative Authors when she was eighteen and secured her first UK publishing deal when she was nineteen. Her YA fantasy novel, Roses will be out on Nov 6th and her first picture book with illustrator, Bethany Straker, will be released in spring 2014.