The pros and cons of writing when I don’t plan.

 

I’ve always been honest about the fact that I’m not a planner when it comes to writing books. In many ways, that should be odd for me because in real life I’m one of those people who likes everything ordered and structured, and planned to the nth level. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than crossing items off a to do list. Okay, not even crossing things off – I have a whole highlighting system, but try and get me to plan a book, and I’d rather remove my own eyeballs with a rusty spoon. I have a strange barrier where if I plan the book, I find it boring to write because I already know what’s going to happen.

Not planning does have its pros and cons of course. Here’s a couple of examples from when I recently wrote Exposed.

Pros- There’s a scene in Exposed where the characters Tate and X reach a city and knock on a door. I had no idea who was going to be behind the door until I wrote it. It could have been anyone, man, woman, old, young. Spoiler – it turned out to be an old woman. I find that quite exciting when I write. It does make for some weird names though, as I make them up on the spot. I’m sure that woman would not have been called Talon had I taken more than 1.3 seconds to think about it. Some of the names change later, but hers stayed the same from first draft to publishing, as did her strangely named grandson Psyche.

Cons – there are times when not planning leads you down a rabbit hole of no return, and you find yourself staring at the laptop screen thinking, now what? There was a scenario I set up near the end of Exposed (I can’t say what it was as that would be a major spoiler) but I’d created a major problem for the characters with no idea how they were going to get out of it. I’ll admit that at these times I usually do have to stop and do a bit of planning. Although, it usually takes the form of jotting down questions rather than answers. I actually stumbled across the cue card for this part of Exposed a while ago, and the sheer vagueness of it as I tried to climb out of a plot hole of my own making made me laugh.

One of the interesting (and I use the word interesting in a sarcastic sense) things about not planning is book length. I really admire those authors who do plan and know exactly how long their books are going to be. The people in my Facebook group (Day’s Den) who get regular updates know just how many times I’ve gone completely over the word length I intended to the point where it’s almost a running joke. My short stories turn into novellas and my planned 60k books usually stray into 80k territory, but even knowing that I could never have predicted Exposed ending up at a whopping 132k, but it needed to be that long to tell the story that I wanted to tell, and to give the characters the ending they deserved. Would it have been shorter if I planned? Possibly. Would I have got bored and not written it at all? Also, very possible.

I guess everyone has their own way of doing things and neither is right or wrong. It’s just what works for that person and makes their process doable.

Although, I don’t plan, I always have little scenes in my head that I know I’ll include at some point in the book. The scene in Exposed where they are on the train was one of these. Here’s an excerpt from that part of the story.

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Excerpt:

It wasn’t long before I had to revise that opinion. I wasn’t fine. I was exhausted, the lack of sleep, the fifteen-mile hike, and the soothing motion of the train all combining to leave me dead on my feet, my eyelids starting to droop. Each time it happened, I had to keep jolting myself awake. On the fifth or sixth occasion—I’d lost count—X made a disapproving noise in the back of his throat. “Don’t be a dick, Tate. Sleep. We’ve still got a long journey ahead.”

A laugh bubbled out of me. How had we spent so many hours together and he’d only just called me a dick? It usually happened much quicker than that. I moved forward, closing the little bit of space that existed between us. Still, I hesitated. “Are you sure?”

“Tate!” That one word contained so many different layers: annoyance, frustration, and something else that in different circumstances I might have interpreted as fondness. I liked him saying my name. I wanted to hear him say it in another context entirely—the heat of passion. What would X be like in bed? Would he be the same calm controlled man he was the majority of the time, or would those occasional flashes of temper I’d seen from him come to the fore? Something unfurled deep inside me at the thought, a craving that I’d spent years doing my best to ignore. A darker part of me that I didn’t let anyone see. Something that would probably shock anyone that knew me. I doubted it would shock X though. I doubted anything could.

I lay my head on his chest, his body heat leaching through the thin T-shirt he wore. His heart thudded beneath my cheek, a slow steady rhythm which coordinated with the train’s. My eyelids drifted shut, but I didn’t try to sleep. Not yet. I wanted to enjoy the moment for a little longer, wanted to enjoy just how solid, how dependable X was. I knew that I could go to sleep and he wouldn’t let me fall, wouldn’t let any harm come to me whatsoever. It was a strange feeling to recognize how much trust I had in him. “I like you, X.”

I didn’t realize I’d said it aloud until the muscles beneath my cheek turned to granite and he almost seemed to stop breathing, the heart beneath my cheek beating faster. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to take it back. Not when it was true. From what I’d seen of X, I couldn’t imagine that anyone had ever said it to him before. But I didn’t need his permission. He could take my liking and do with it whatever he wished, but it wouldn’t make it go away. I smiled, adding an extra bit to make him feel even more uncomfortable. “I like you a lot.”

X swallowed, the vibration travelling through his chest. “Go to sleep, Tate.”

“Go to sleep, Tate,” I mimicked. I slid my arms around his waist, my wrist brushing the handle of one of his knives. Knives that no longer seemed even remotely scary. In fact, they provided a twisted sense of reassurance. “You tell me what to do an awful lot. You know that, right?”

“It’s necessary.”

I turned my head slightly to the side, burying my nose in his neck and breathing him in. He smelt of musk and sweat, and… X.  “And what about if there comes a day where it’s not necessary anymore? Will you still tell me what to do?” I sighed when no response was forthcoming. The man was an enigma and the urge to solve the mystery of what made him tick was quite possibly the strongest desire I’d ever had. I just needed to work out a strategy.

That was my last conscious thought before I succumbed to sleep.

Author Bio:

H.L Day juggles teaching and writing. As an avid reader, she decided to give writing a go one day and the rest is History. Her superpower is most definitely procrastination. Every now and again, she musters enough self-discipline to actually get some words onto paper—sometimes they even make sense and are in the right order. She enjoys writing far too many different sub genres to stick to one thing so writes everything from rom-coms to post-apocalyptic sci-fi.

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