If there is one thing that authors and bloggers are good at, it’s planning. Well, unless you’re a pantser, anyway.
And even if you do write your novels by the seat of your pants, there’s a pretty good chance that you have other works planned out … in your mind if not written down anywhere.
You plan to develop a children’s book as soon as you can find the perfect topic and get your artwork lined up.
You plan to write a series of western novels once you sketch out the complete story arc, from Book 1 all the way through Book 233. It’s gonna be epic and awesome.
You plan to start a blog when work slows down and you settle on a niche. Or when you find the perfect domain name, for sure. Then you’ll start.
The Perfect Plan
I love planning and think it’s essential for most writers. That’s especially true if you work a full-time job that’s not writing and you have other obligations — a spouse, children, friends, etc. You’re just not going to get much writing done if you try to wing it and fit in your novel or blog wherever you can.
You need a blueprint for your writing career; a roadmap that can take you from where you are to where you want to be as an author.
But you can overdo planning, and it’s not hard to do, either. Once you start building out timelines and outlines, it’s tempting to tweak them. You want to tune everything to perfection because, if you get it just right, the words will almost write themselves when you finally do start writing (or so you think).
Perfection is impossible to achieve, though, and you’ll never be completely satisfied with your plan. You may even jump from master plan to master plan looking for just the right combination. If you’re not careful, all of the gyrations you go through preparing to write will become a crutch that allows you to hobble along without actually writing much of anything at all.
At some point, you’ve got to put away the sketchbook and open up the word processor if you hope to ever finish a writing project.
Getting Off the Sidelines
If you find yourself spiraling into this Hell of perpetual planning, what can you do to pull out of the tailspin?
The easy answer is to invoke your inner Michael Jordan and “just do it.”
But if you haven’t just done it to this point, what’s the likelihood you will now?
Instead, you need something to bust your plan-encrusted inertia — you need a plan!
Don’t worry, though: this plan is a short one, and it’s set in stone. You’re not allowed to change it.
Ready? Here it is:
- Take a long last look at your soul-crushing master plan and soak in its expansiveness.
- Pick one writing project that you think is really important to your goals.
- Put your plan away.
- Open your word processor.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes.
- Start the timer.
- Write until the timer goes off.
Earn the Right to Plan
Don’t worry if you haven’t finished your outline or don’t have your plot worked out.
Just get your fingers moving and keep them going for the full 15 minutes. Even if you’re totally stuck, just write something. Write about the setting of your novel or describe your main character. It doesn’t matter at all if the thoughts are random and don’t fit together because the point is just to get you writing in the world of your project.
When your 15 minutes are up, stand up and stretch. Walk around for a few minutes. Maybe grab a snack.
Then come back to your desk and do it all over again.
String together as many of these “sprints” as you have time for, and then come back to repeat the exercise later on.
The most important thing is that you keep coming back and keep chipping away at your novel or story. And don’t pull out your planning materials again.
There will be plenty of opportunity for that once you’ve proven to yourself that you can actually write something. Knock out a few thousand words, and you’ll have earned your way back to the planning table.
Just sit down and write that damn book.