The Plan du Jour

Plans must be made every day. They’re compartmented by activity. They’re all based on what’s been done, and the overall goals, objectives, mission, and visions.

This is a product of my military years. Make lists, prioritize, structure and plan, hup – two – threp – four. About the only thing in my life exempt from planning is this blog. The blog is just a lark, a creative outlet, a place to vent and rant, and a channel for improving my knowledge, sparking my thinking, and making connections. Everything else is serious.

Writing is especially serious, even as it’s fun. A plan is required or an organic writer like me. The most critical part to remember about having a plan is that it’s a tool to help organize and progress. Trying to make the perfect plan is counter-productive, unless you’re murdering someone or robbing someplace. In just about everything else, it’s sufficient to have a sketchy plan.

When I’m writing the story, the story writes the plan. My novels typically begin with a concept or a setting. Ideas volunteer and find roots.

But writing is like vehicular traffic for me; everything causes a reaction. Implications, issues, conflicts, and outcomes arise. Plans are needed. Some of that planning is researching aspects to provide more depth and realism. Other planning is simply developing concepts and character background. Characters often leap into action on a page. I accept that, but to carry the story forward and keep it honest, I need to know that character. So, off I go, into a character snapshot. Some of that ends up in the novel as exposition. It depends upon the material and story. Even if I include it at that point, it can be removed later. It depends upon the arc, relevance, and pacing.

Writing and walking work well together. My mind can pick up where I left off writing the story on the last session and resume that thread preparatory to beginning a new day of writing like crazy. Reading and writing works well for me, too. Reading fuels my creativity, invigorates my desires, and reinforces my will, all good things while on a novel-writing journey.

All of this is less so with editing and revising.

In editing and revising, I already have the raw material that writing provided. The characters are established; so is the plot. The research has been completed, for the most part, and the results are embedded in the story.

I can say that research is completed for the most part. Sometimes while writing, I’ll put in some shorthand about something require greater detail, clarification, or verification that I’m not completely wrong about what I think and have based my novel decision upon. I use the shorthand because I’m in the writing rhythm and don’t want to divert myself from that path. I mark these places with <TK> and some explanation about what I wanted for there, and why. These might need research at that point. Sometimes, though, I find the research has been completed and used elsewhere. Sometimes I find that what I thought was needed there is no longer required. I go with the flow as I see it.

An editing and revising plan then evolves more into finishing the novel as a coherent and entertaining story that others can read and enjoy. I sit down to edit and revise with a goal of completing thirty pages each day. It’s just like running miles for me, or walking; having a specific objective keeps me focused on the overall course. That objective, though, isn’t the goal, and I don’t confuse the two. Editing and revising the book remains the goal for this phase of the vision. The vision is a completed, published novel.

Thirty pages is a somewhat arbitrary distinction. I often exceed that. Once in a while, I’ll fall short.

Reaching thirty pages a day is neither easy, nor difficult. It depends upon the work presented. Some of it’s already been significantly revised, edited and polished, because part of my process as an organic writer is to edit and revise as I write the novel. These sort of passages are a pleasure to edit and revise because they’re so easy. The biggest problems I encounter are writing butt and becoming complacent. Writing butt is, of course, when you’ve been sitting for so long, your ass has gone numb. Since I often have my head up my ass, this can have serious health ramifications for breathing and thinking. Complacency is when I stop thinking critically about what I’m reading.

Beyond this basic plan and structure for editing, sometimes, in the course of reading what’s been written, I’ll draw up short. Something does not align with what was previously read, or what I recall writing later in the novel. At that point, I have options.

My options depend on how big I view this mis-alignment, i.e., how disturbing or surprising I find it, and it’s influence on the rest of the plot and novel. Sometimes, it appears to me to be so large that it becomes a plan to resolve this difference. Other times, it’s smaller and I simply make a note to review and resolve. A few times, the flawed connection has arrived because I just read that part. Then, I’ll flip back to it quickly, confirm my facts, and continue. A few times, it’ll be something like a planet, ship, or secondary character’s name. When that happens, I’ll verify, and then completed a global search and replace.

With all plans, as learned in the military, it’s about mission accomplishment. What is my vision, and how does completing my mission support it? In writing a novel, it’s pretty damn simple and clear.

Now, excuse me. I have a plan to go edit and revise, at least one more time.

What about you? Do you have a plan du jour?

 

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