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Planning. ARGH! It sounds like a profanity, right? Especially when you’re a self-professed pantser. Yet I’ve found during the #AtoZChallenge that planning my posts for the month ahead saves me time and from writer’s block headaches.

Here’s a step-by-step how-to on planning writing projects.

planning writing projects

At the start of 2016 (yes, this year) I found the wonderful hashtag known as #FolkloreThursday filled with magic, myth and – you guessed it – folklore. It inspired me to add a new feature to the blog on Thursdays where I can explore creatures of myth, legend and folklore and create them in a new way for my Origin of the Fae page. These posts also have a story linked to them. The story always has the featured folklore creature in it. I’ll either post the story on writing.com if it’s a stand-alone or I’ll post it on Wattpad if it’s part of a series.

This takes a lot of planning and research. But it’s totally worth it. Though it’s not something that can be done without planning…

If it’s a Stories on Scrolls or Tales of the Onyx Labyrinth story, I’ll start by figuring out where the story should be heading. Then I’ll find a magical creature that will create a stir. In the underground Faeries series, my favourite to date is the Dark Muse with a Leannan Sìth as the antagonist. In the scrolls series my favourite has to be Chasing the Nightmare steed with a Dullahan as the antagonist. I like my heroes well enough, but it’s the bad guys that truly test them and make the story interesting.

With The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog I’ll just check what I’ve already written and research the magical creature that features strongly in it. Or if it’s something I can draw from folklore, I’d focus on that.

writing onyx labyrinth

Planning and writing the newest Onyx Labyrinth story by hand.

I like to write fiction by hand. I have this awesome collection of coloured pens that help me be as creative as possible. Post-it notes are great too. And having a notebook handy at all times is absolutely crucial. For stories – even the short ones I write for the above series – I do a basic plot outline so I know where I’m going. We all know that plot is important to story. Yet we sometimes skip planning that plot. Even a faint outline is helpful (like in the picture above where I planned the story in black while writing it in green, making notes on the post-its).

I’ve never actually written an entire novel by hand, though. I write key scenes as they come to me. And when I edit, I have a printed-out MS to work from and can do my notes in colour (it’s the only way I don’t run away screaming).

But short stories? Easy enough to write the entire thing in my current favourite colour.

Planning novels/short stories have the same basic ingredients:

  • Intro: quickly tell the reader who the MC is and the setting.
  • Initiating incident: that push down the stairs that starts the whole story.
  • Rising action: the heroine getting up and accepting the challenge.
  • Climax: the fight for the crown begins in earnest; the heroine loses her shoes and her dress gets ripped and it feels like she’s failing; she’s triumphant and seizes the crown though her mascara is smeared.
  • Falling action: everyone cheers for the heroine; the jesters are kicked out of the kingdom; the heroine gets cleaned up.
  • Denouement: a great feast/ball is held to celebrate the heroine’s awesomeness.
  • Conclusion: the heroine knows now that she was silly to try and walk away from her crown in the first place and could have skipped this whole mess if she’d just been as awesome as she is now from the start.

heroine with griffin

Having a basic plot outline is very helpful to write that novel from start to finish. Try it. Do it right now. You have no idea how much this will up your productivity. And the best part? You don’t have to plan every tiny twist – you can still be surprised with a roadmap.

writing by hand then laptop

But what does this have to do with “regular” blogging, you ask?

Jotting down all those ideas you’d like to discuss can actually help you when you get stuck. And having a couple of completed posts in the bank can come in handy on a rainy day. (Yeah, I’m full of clichés today. Oooh, a post about clichés…) And if you’re doing A-Z next year, you can start by writing down words or topics for every letter of the alphabet. (You bet your sweet Jimmy Choos that I have my list ready for next April.)

Oh, did I mention that planning ahead even covers you on those days when debilitating headaches confine you to darkened dungeons? Go ahead, give planning a try. And see your productivity spike.

“The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one often comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.” – Henry Ward Beecher

So, are you a planner or a pantser? Do you write blogposts on the fly whether talking incessantly about which Oliver Queen is the best protector for your city is irritating your readers or not? BTW, I think the Oliver Queen from Arrow would be a better protector for my city than the Oliver from Smallville. Dare to disagree and back up your position.