A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Wrong Way! Go Back!

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 08.54.20Planners, I salute you and your organised ways. I admire your mind-maps and your plot charts, your post-it note wall plans and your index cards. I envy your disciplined detailing of plot and character and your forward thinking ability to know your story chapter by chapter before you have even written a sentence.

I covet those things because I am no planner.

Nu-uh. Not me.

There are times, though, when I really really wish I were. I crave the sense of having a route map. Of knowing where I’m going. But planning is my blind spot.

Instead of following the writing sat-nav, I awake in a cold sweat wondering what on earth is going to happen next in my story. Which ramshackle backroad will my characters take me down tomorrow? What if it’s the wrong way? And will I ever write a book without having to go back and delete thousands of words that. Just. Aren’t. Working?

I tried it. I tried oh so hard to join the disciplined and upright ranks of the planners. Notebooks failed me. Index cards failed me. My post-it notes are disorganised and shameful scraps of paper clinging to my MacBook. Even the much loved Scrivener was unable to bring me into the light. I mean, how could I fill out a character bio if I didn’t even know my characters yet?

So, I guess it just isn’t for me. Planning is not my thing. Perhaps I am fated to tumble into the unknown with every book I write. Or perhaps – perhaps – my version of planning is my first draft. That’s when I tell myself the story and learn who my characters are.

So maybe, actually, perhaps, you never know . . . is it possible that we’re all planners in our own particular way?

That’s all.

About dansmithsbooks

Dan Smith, author of adult thrillers and adventure/survival stories for younger readers. See more of me at

6 comments on “Wrong Way! Go Back!

  1. Jenni Clarke (@JenniClarke2)
    September 17, 2014

    With you all the way here, I have a vague idea of what is going to happen, but the story and characters have their own plans !!

  2. Alex Gutteridge
    September 17, 2014

    I’m not a planner either, Dan and have always admired people who are. You can’t change your nature though, easier to come to terms with it and go with the flow. At least that way you get some nice surprises along the way!

  3. dansmithsbooks
    September 17, 2014

    Exactly! Those pesky characters are always doing their own thing. It can sometimes make for a stressful writing process though . . .

  4. dansmithsbooks
    September 17, 2014

    Very true. It’s funny, though, because I’ve just finished the first draft of a new book which I tried to plan. I really, really tried hard to plan it out, but it just didn’t work. And the things that happen in this story, the way the characters turn out, there’s no way I could have ever planned for it.

  5. Julia Lee
    September 18, 2014

    Having had a massive wobble and serious cold sweats just a few days ago at trying to pull all my plot threads together – with deadline in sight – I am SO glad to read this. I wish I could plan in detail but I feel I would get bored following that premeditated path. I need room for surprises. (But would like the comfort blanket of a plan, too.)

  6. Robin Gottlieb
    October 2, 2014

    Dan – You must have visited Oz! The first time my family & I saw that highway sign in Australia, we cried laughing! ^]^ BTW – I’m an editor at Recorded Books trying to write-up a summary of “The Big Game” for our catalog. The ‘Look Inside’ feature of it on Amazon has the WRONG BOOK INSIDE! (Better contact them to correct it.) Glad to learn it’s also a movie – makes for a nice sell! I also recently wrote up “My Friend the Enemy” – nice job! Good luck! RobinG.

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