Saturday 22 June 2013

I’m not planning

To paraphrase Flight of the Conchords: “I’m not planning.”

In a recent blog post about where my ideas come from, I said I don’t plan – or, more accurately, while I do lots of planning, I never write it down.

Well, almost never.

Having moved to Oxford a couple of weeks back I’ve finally started to find some time to work on the novel. A few months back when I first started I tied myself in knots by launching straight into the action (a minor incident involving the Mojave Desert, which takes place about halfway through the novel). I then realised that getting the story told up to this point involved a complicated jumble of flashbacks to different time periods that was a nightmare to sort out, would be super confusing to the reader, and also gave away important bits of the plot earlier than I wanted to.

So this is where the planning came in:

I drew a map (the novelling equivalent of making a meticulously coloured-in revision plan), and then sat thinking about what scene would a) work well on the first page and b) allow a more natural structure. I realised that my brain lacked the processing power to hold all the bits in place at the same time.

So I wrote a few things down. I made a flow chart of chapters and events with lots of arrows and stuff, and it actually helped massively. It only gives a very rough outline of where I want to go, but it gives me dots that I can later join up. Writing is light years easier when I don’t have to worry that I’m running myself up a blind alley. It means I can move faster and also concentrate on getting the words strung in the right order. Which I reckon is fairly important.

* * *

In journalism news, my first freelance commission is about to be published – an article in ‘The Future of Payments’ supplement to the Sunday Times. It’s a roundtable discussion with five experts on what payments innovations we are likely to see in future and whether the government’s attempts at better regulation are going to prove elegant and efficient or ham-fisted.

Apologies to everyone I told it was going to be published last week. It wasn’t published last week. It’s going to be published tomorrow.

If anyone wants to read it but doesn’t want to be seen dead buying one of Murdoch’s papers, I can send you a link when it goes live.

* * *

EDIT: If you missed it, you can find a link to the article on my new and improved Journalism page.


  1. Maps and their equivalent work so well! I came out to a fellow writer a couple of days ago about the fact I am a compulsive planner. I like writing character sheets, descriptions... It really does help write faster. It help me anyway.

    Hope TGGAR is going well!

  2. Thanks! I hate to admit it, but I'm getting more and more into the planning thing...

    If you're writing character sheets, does that mean you have a fiction project of your own?

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