Making a Plan, Losing the Plot, and Reaching The End
I’m a planner.
When I travel I organise a detailed itinerary featuring costs and day-by-day breakdowns of my time to maximise sight-seeing opportunities.
When I arrive at my destination I am almost immediately swept away by the place, its culture and food and people … My budget becomes apparently endless and all that hard work I put into the itinerary is replaced by the sheer euphoria of going along with whatever happens to be taking place around me.
But I’m really a planner.
When I have things to do I make a detailed list and cross off the tasks methodically as each is completed.
Except sometimes the tasks take a while to get around to, and sometimes I never quite get to them so I write a to-do list from which they are exempt. And sometimes I add things I’ve already done just for the sake of having something to cross out. And sometimes I can’t find the to-do list so I start again. And sometimes I don’t have a to-do list and yet things still get done.
These quirks aside, I’m a planner.
When writing, I map out my plot and I detail what will take place in each chapter in order to reach The End.
Except … well, sometimes the plot gallops off without me being able to rein it in. Chapter One is promising. Chapter Two sees a few amendments. Chapter Three is somewhat recognisable from The Plan … but by Chapter Four I may as well scrap The Plan and just keep going because things are happening and it might not be how I planned but it’s moving and I’m caught up in the characters and the plot and I cannot bring myself to make them conform so I just … Go. And breathe (sometimes).
I’m a planner, though.
I have notebooks in which I write extensive plot summaries and character profiles, I have spreadsheets detailing chapter outlines, and a wall covered in post-its showing key events and how they follow the arc of my story.
Except … Well …
I have notebooks that, despite all attempts to keep them exclusive to the story to which each is dedicated, feature the odd shopping list (coffee, chocolate, ice cream, broccoli) and note to self to, for example, stop buying chocolate because I’m only going to eat the entire block in a single sitting while wallowing in the despair that can only come when a writer has lost her plot despite beginning with such a thorough plan.
There is a fine line between a writer losing her plot and a person simply losing the plot – for writers, both are so finely connected that when our stories stray, so do our sanity levels.
You see, I’m a planner. Except, in a true reflection of life imitating art (or art imitating life, depending on your personal approach), nothing ever goes according to plan. No matter how many notebooks I keep and how many spreadsheets I fill, my plans often go awry – usually for the better. I end up exploring narrow cobblestone streets that don’t appear on the tourist maps, or doing something I never thought possible because it wasn’t on The List, or writing something so intricate that no plan would ever have accommodated such developments. I always reach The End, no matter how far I stray from The Plan.
By the well-worn seat of my much-loved pants.
My thanks to Stef for this fabulous guest post. I highly recommend you follow her blog over at Dodging Commas. Go on. You know you want to.
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