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Writing Tips From An Editor #5

Planning

Planning is just as important as having a writing habit, it is the other key way of preventing writer’s block, or simply getting stuck. 

As a creative person, planning can feel really dull and restricting. Not planning can be equally restricting because you might not only forget key information that you wanted in the book, but it’s also going to interfere with the flow. 

Creating an outline can be as simple as having a list of chapters and a sentence for each one explaining roughly what’s going in there. It doesn’t have to be a thousand post-it notes on the wall above your desk with all the branches of the story. If that is how you want to plan, then that’s great. It’s going to keep you focussed, your story is going to follow a specific timeline and potentially have less developmental editing needed at the end. 

Not everyone is going to be able to commit to that in-depth plotting before they begin. 

I would suggest starting with a basic outline and building on it as you go. A plan doesn’t have to be rigid, it is just there to guide you and keep you on track. It can also be a good place to stick ideas and flashes of inspiration as they come to you. You could be writing chapter three and suddenly have an idea of something that’s going to happen in chapter ten. At that point, you can just switch over to your outline document and throw in a few notes before you hop back over to your manuscript document and carry on. 

The trick is to treat your plan as a working document in the same way that you treat your manuscript as a working document. You are moving between the two documents, being active in both, and you are engaging with your own material the whole time you are working on a project. 

No matter how much you think you are going to remember something, you are just as human as I am. Save yourself the heartbreak and just write it down before you start, as you write, and even as you are editing. 

Planning also applies to your setting and characters. I am embarrassed to admit that I have lost count of the number of times I have had to go back through a manuscript in the past and find out what colour my character’s eyes are supposed to be. I wrote it in the first place, I should know, but I don’t. 

In my planning document, I will also have a list of characters. Every time a new one crops up I’ll add them to the list. In bullet points beneath you will find a basic description including eye color, hair color, height, defining features, and the clothes they wear. I’ll also add a brief history, which is especially important if it’s significant to the story. Or any other defining information that is relevant that I might need to come back to. Sometimes dates are really important there too, especially if you are writing something biographical.

I’ll do the same thing for the setting as well, especially if it’s a fictional location, or somewhere I have never been. It can be really jarring for a reader if these details change, even minutely. Something as simple as describing the setting as this flat, open land and then later on suggesting that the characters are walking up a hill there can make your reader pause, it pulls them out of the story, ruins the flow, and endangers the whole experience of your book. 

So you have the headings Plot, Characters, and Setting in your planning document, and being able to quickly cross reference back to that information is going to keep your momentum going as you write. It’s going to help you create a more consistent world or a more consistent experience for your reader. You want them to get lost in the tale; you don’t want them to feel jarred or confused. 

The bottom line is keeping track of an unfolding piece of work with its plots and subplots, its characters, and its details is a thousand times easier when you are following or keeping track of a plan.

I hope this has been helpful. I’m trying to post tips every now and then. I want to see every writer bringing their best self forward. Let’s create a world where we empower each other.

I am currently accepting submissions for Editing and Ghostwriting, if you want to connect with me you can email me at emma@writing-things.com.

We can chat about your book and how I can help!

Happy writing everyone!

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10 responses to “Writing Tips From An Editor #5”

    • That’s what the graveyard document is for! With every project I’ll also have a document that I call “The Graveyard.” It’s a place to put content that you aren’t sure about. It’s important not to delete anything, just move it to the graveyard document and you can review it all at the end. You might find that it fits somewhere else, or even in a whole new story idea. Let’s say you have a bit of dialogue that you kind of like but it doesn’t fit where it is. Move it over to the graveyard, it might spark a new idea, it might form the foundation of a different part of the story.
      So it’s the same for fiction. If you feel uneasy about anything, it’s going to disrupt the flow for the reader because it disrupts the flow for you. But don’t delete anything is my advice.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have difficulty with WORD change-tracking (hate it) so this way of carving off and saving leftovers for later looks absolutely great to me.
        For Senryū, I keep a running gmail draft labelled various ideas. I browse through occasionally, which sometimes results in a completed verse. But Senryū verses are so short that it’s easy to relegate also ran lines to the bottom of each separate draft. Such lines usually disappear without review. I will start reviewing them and transfer them to what I’ll call the Leftovers box (because calling it the graveyard is too gruesome for this little chicken).
        Thank you for your generous, practical, insightful tips.
        DD

        Like

      • Track changes can take some getting used to. I actually prefer Google docs for that, although I use both depending on what the client prefers.
        I think calling it “The Leftovers Box” is a wonderful idea. For me, being a little bit of a dark, supernatural lover, I think of “The Graveyard” as the perfect place for reanimation 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for such valuable tips, Emma. I rarely write fiction, but I’ve been challenged by my course tutor to write a piece of flash fiction (I’m not great at that as I don’t have a great imagination, so I prefer to write about my life and feelings, as you’ve no doubt noticed. These tips will be very useful when planning my flash fiction piece in less than 500 words – a real challenge for me. P.S. I haven’t got any further with fathoming out KDP. It all seems very complicated. If I’m really stuck, I will email you again for advice and possibly, assistance. Thanks Xx

    Liked by 1 person

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