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Planning versus Going With The Flow: In Writing and in Real Life #writing #reading #planning #plotting

Image shows compass needle pointing to the word control

Word of the Month: Control

In the words of Scottish poet Robert Burns, ‘The best laid plans o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley’. In other words you can plan all you like, but it doesn’t mean the plan will come to pass and everything will work out perfectly. And I’ve recently found this to be as true in my writing life as it is in real life.

Now, in spite of the poet’s wise words, I’m prepared to admit to being a bit of a control freak in real life. I plan our weekly dinner menus in advance, I do the household accounts every month, and have an ongoing daily schedule in my diary for work and play. I’m also the queen of lists and the use Post-It notes.

Control of my Writing and the Need for a Plan

However, when I’m writing, I don’t mind the plot getting a little out of control. I like it when my characters surprise me and I don’t plan every plot detail in advance. Fiction writers are often described as being either plotters or pantsters (as in flying by the seat of their pants). I tend to be mainly a pantster – working with a rough outline and knowing how I want the story to end but, as I said above, enjoying the inspirational surprises along the way.

But as I write my latest novel, I’m beginning to see some of the downsides of being a pantster. The reason being I want the work-in-progress to be the first in a series of contemporary romantic fiction. It’s a series where each book will have its own two main romantic leads but the community in the Scottish Borders where the story is set in will remain the same. This means keeping track of all the supporting cast members, their appearance, age, job, relationship status etc just in case they pop up in future books – either in starring roles or still in support. And if they are going to be in a future leading role, I need to know now so that I can ensure their current relationship status will fit with that future role.

This means I’m having to spend more time that I’m used to on planning my writing and I now have a folder full of character facts, possible pairings and skeleton plots for the future as well as for the work-in-progress. I’m also getting to grips with an app for writers called Plottr which seems to lend itself especially well to series planning.

Ans so yes, this pantster of a writer is having to be a bit more in control and, for now at least, has moved to the planner camp.

Control and Planning in Other Aspects of Writing

It’s not just the creative side of my writing that needs planning. There’s also the managing and marketing side of things too because as an independent publisher of my own books there’s a business to run.

This involves keeping track of income and expenditure, scheduling publishing and launch plans, working with my editor and my cover designer, dealing with publishing platforms and distributors – to name just some of it.

It also necessitates doing things to attract new readers and reward existing ones.

Most importantly there’s writing my newsletter which, as the name suggests, lets my subscribers know how my writing is progressing, gives them sneak peeks at the work-in-progress, or an occasional special book-related offer or competition. Coming up in my next newsletter I’ll be answering subscribers questions about my books and my writing in general.

Doing my newsletter along with writing this blog, and regularly posting on my Facebook and Instagram author pages all require planning and keeping control of delivering those plans.

image shows compass with needle pointing the word choice.

Not all about Control

Having said all of the above, I wouldn’t do any of it if I didn’t enjoy it. I LOVE writing. OK, the business side of things can be hard going but I never let it overshadow the sheer joy of storytelling. And sometimes that storytelling does need to be given free rein to delight and surprise me and, hopefully, in turn my readers. The day that delight and enjoyment stop is the day I’ll quit making up stories.

And Speaking of Enjoyment …

There’s READING books

I’ve read several very good books since last month’s post and it’s been hard to pick out the best one, but I’ve done it. And Book of the Month this month is Miranda Dickinson’s latest novel All My Love.

Image shows bookcover with couple sitting on bench

All My Love is a first class, slow-burn, contemporary romance and I definitely recommend it. It’s available as an ebook, an audio book, and as a paperback.

From the back cover:

Sometimes love can be staring you in the face . . . and you don’t even know it

By day, Archie works tirelessly as assistant to the editor of a local newspaper.

By night, Esther works after hours cleaning the rows of office desks with the help of her trusty sidekick, Fred the trolley.

Their paths have never crossed, until one discarded Post-it note unexpectedly brings them together.

Because they share one thing in common . . . they’re both secretly in love with someone else.

And they might just be the two people who can help each other find the courage to confess their feelings and write the perfect love letter.

But what if they’re falling for the wrong person?

Meanwhile Away from Writing and Reading

The last month hasn’t all been about control, planning and hard work, however. As always I’ve enjoyed time in the garden, listening to music – current music crush is Jack Savoretti – and going for walks. Most recently those walks were along the lovely beach beside the holiday cottage I stayed in in the town of Banff on Scotland’s Moray Firth coast. So I’ll leave you with a picture from that seaside and a link to Jack on YouTube.

Jack Savoretti

Image of beach

As always do feel free to comment and share how much you plan and try to exert control over your working and personal life and how much you just like to let go.


And don’t forget, if you want a more intimate round up of my current writing such as updates on the work-in-progress, sneak peeks at same, early notification of publication dates, giveaways and lots more, do sign up for my author newsletter. And when you do you’ll receive A FREE BOOK of some of my romantic short stories as a thank you. Just click HERE and fill in your email address. 


My latest novel is contemporary romance Baby Steps.

Book cover image of embracing couple silhouetted against a city skyline

It’s available as an ebook and as a paperback and you can buy it HERE

If you’ve read it already please do consider leaving a review at the buy link above. Reviews no matter how brief are so helpful and I appreciate every one.

To find out more about all of my books just go to the BOOKS page HERE on the website.

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