When my cousin eulogized my uncle at his funeral last summer, she told us that one of his favorite sayings was: “Plan the work and work the plan.” That little nugget has been rattling around in my brain ever since. For the most part, I do not do an outline or a written plan; I tend to push forward, getting the thoughts down onto the paper. But on those days when I am staring at the blank computer screen with no idea of what I am going to write next or when I am overwhelmed by all that has to be written to the point of paralysis, my uncle’s words ring loud and clear in my head. With many days of trial and error I realized that making a plan when you’re stuck it the best solution.
When I have moments of inertia, I stop, step away from the computer and deal with the unknowing and the volume by creating a plan. Boiled down to its basics, it is a list of what I want to accomplish for just that day with my writing and more specifically, what I need to do to get it done.
Keywords are Key when Making a Plan
For instance, my list might include working on a few posts for this blog as well as working on a few chapters of my novel. The blog posts get tentative titles and then I will write the points I feel are pertinent. My chapters get bullet points of what I want to accomplish in each chapter: how I want it to start and end, what will be revealed, how the story will be moved forward and any action. I might even add some key words for each scene or a scrap of dialogue.
It seems like a lot but it is a pared-down version of what needs to be done. It is almost like a blueprint that can serve as a jumping off point on those days when you find yourself stuck. Quite accidentally, I discovered that by creating a list with only one sentence describing each scene in each chapter gives me a great bird’s eye view of the flow and if I need to rearrange scenes.
Then I glue my bum to the chair and go down the list, ticking things off as I complete them. And there is a sense of accomplishment with things crossed off the list. I have learned the hard way that making a plan is important to my success as a writer.