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How I plan

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The truth is, I’m not much of a planner.

I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal.

I think I’m too impatient for planning most of the time and sometimes it’s gotten me into trouble, other times it’s led me on the greatest adventures of my life.  I flew to England a while back with the single goal of going to Stonehenge for the summer solstice and the rest I left up to the winds of fate.  I ended up living in Brighton, making friends and hitchhiking around Europe.  Hooray for no plans.

When it comes to writing I have difficulty planning as well.  Having a vague idea for a story constitutes a plan for me.

My most recent completed novel (in beta reading now) started out as an idea and I didn’t really start plotting until later when events unfolded that needed to be explored.  It was an adventure to be sure, but still a little unnerving as it left me wondering, is this going to work?  As it turned out it did (at least Ben and I think so, we’ll see what other people have to say), but after that writing free-for-all I thought it might be a good idea to try the next book with an actual, full out plan.
Ben and I started that process yesterday.  After a bumpy start (sitting there staring at each other), we went for a walk (apparently the only way we can actually think) and worked out some ideas.

So here’s how the planning is going so far:

Step 1: Idea – the idea for the book came from a short story I wrote (which is how it seems to go for me) and I told Ben.  Ben said…‘hmmm…interesting….’ and off we went.

Step 2: How to plan as we’ve never officially done this we had to work out how to plan, which basically consisted of a discussion about the best way to approach the idea.

Step 3: Characters/research – as many of the characters are based on gods of various pantheons we had to do some research, so we spent some time on good old Wikipedia.

Step 4: Define characters – as this more of a character study than an adventure, the characters seemed more important than the plot.  The plan is to create the plot around the characters but first they all need names, backstory etc…

Step 5: Define the world – as the world has limitations we needed to make some decisions about what it is and how it operates.

Some basic ideas about all of the above is as far as we’ve gotten, but it seems to be going well.  The next steps will involve plotting and more fleshing out of the backstories so that they connect with the main plot and create a little drama.

Ben is perfect for me for a million reasons and one of them happens to be that he loves plotting and planning stuff like this.  We’re essentially planning the story like it’s a D&D game, but instead of playing it, I’ll be writing it.  Personally, I love the writing part most, making the words go together and sound beautiful and interesting and meaningful.  I like to live in the now, minute by minute.  He’s a bigger picture kind of guy which works for me perfectly, because without him, I’d probably just write a lot of rambling novels.

So planning.  I’m still trying to work it out, but it seems to be going well and I know the more we plan now, the smoother the process of writing will be and that will make it even more fun in the long run.

How do you plan?  Have any hints or tricks you use to plan effectively?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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Educated vs. self taught

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I’m an uneducated writer.

That’s right.  I mean I took English in high school and one creative writing course at U of T a long time ago, but other than that I have no schooling to speak of when it comes to writing.  Except the school of life baby.

So overall, would I say that one needs to be educated in the craft of writing in order to be a great writer?  No.

Education has it’s benefits of course, you get to learn in-depth and explore a variety avenues with skilled instructors helping you along.  You get a group environment in which to learn, critique and grow.  You’re able to focus your mind and hone your craft in a place designed to allow you to do just that.  However, I would argue that you can do all of these things without being formally educated as well.

We’re lucky, we live in an age where most of the information in the world is just a google search away.  If I want to learn the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’ I can do it in an instant thanks to grammar blogs and diligent Wikipedia nerds (those folks are amazing).  I can go online and post my work in forums to be ripped apart by the educated and the self taught alike.  I can write to my heart’s content and send my stories to various online (and printed) magazines for rejection or acceptance.  I never miss a spelling error thanks to my awesome spell check that sticks a red squiggly under my word if I get it wrong.  Thanks to technology more and more people are literate, able to read and write and express themselves without the benefits of formal education.

So what are the benefits of being self-taught?  Well, for me the benefit would be that I learned to write as I traveled and I traveled widely because once I left high school I didn’t head straight into university or a career path.  I hitchhiked around Europe and bussed around Egypt, through the US to Mexico then around Peru.  As I traveled, I didn’t take pictures, instead I wrote.  I scribbled endless notes and poems in piles of journals and captured my whole journey in prose.  Although I had written before then, it was never so prolific and I think that’s really what got me onto the path into the magical land of writing.

Had I gone to university instead I’m not sure I would have given myself the time and space to travel and work in bars and become an event planner only to eventually learn I’m a writer at heart.  Had I gone to university instead I might have become ensconced in a career and not noticed that my true path was writing.  So for me, being self taught worked out.

I would certainly never suggest that one way is better than another, because everyone has to find their own way.  I can say though that I’m happy it all worked out the way it did and I don’t think I’m any worse for not having gone to university to be formally educated.

I fully intend to keep writing for the rest of my life and I can definitely say I’m self taught and proud.

School of life.  Yeah.

Tell me about your experiences with writing, are you self taught or formally educated?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!