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.

… How?

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. 


About Stef

I'm the girl who sticks pens in her hair and stops mid-sentence to scramble through her handbag and scribble something into a notebook.
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Making a Plan, Losing the Plot, and Reaching The End

  1. Pete Denton says:

    Thanks for agreeing to guest post on my blog, Stef.

    I enjoy reading how other writers approach their craft and thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. Your writing method will mirror a lot of us out there. 🙂

    • Stef says:

      Thank YOU for the invitation 🙂 I had a blast writing this post and thinking about all of the plans I’ve made … and all of the pants I’ve worn out!

  2. Caerlynn Nash says:

    Hey, nice to know I’m not crazy after all! 🙂 I do this too (not just writing a book).
    I’m new to novel writing. It’s rather intimidating. I’ve got three rough chapters, and while I wrote those, I’ve planned, researched, written, revised, researched, written, revised the plot, researched, and, well, you get the idea. I’m going in circles, but I think all the work is actually moving me forward. And, at least I’m having fun. Life’s too short not to have fun!

    • Stef says:

      I think writing in any medium can be intimidating, so good on you for having the courage to get started on a novel! Life is, indeed, too short not to have fun! 😀

  3. This describes me so accurately it is frightening. Great post.

  4. Great fun. I also know to my cost just how true it is.I plan shopping with lists that selects items from the point of the store where they are because my list corresponds with the shop’s displays- except when they move things round or maybe when I decide to detour down aisles I hadn’t planned on needing things like perhaps fresh cream cakes or dark chocolate fingers.It doesn’t take much to send me off course but despite that I’m a planner.

    • Stef says:

      Oh gosh, I do that with my shopping lists as well – I just didn’t want to admit it! And yet I still end up wandering aimlessly and contemplating the merits of those little jar opening gadgets strategically positioned next to the salsa, neither of which are on the list.

  5. robincoyle says:

    I am a planner too. My to-do lists have sub-lists. Except when it comes to writing. I let my heart to with speaking. Then I let my head do the editing. Win-win situation.

    Great guest post.

  6. Pingback: Making a Plan, Losing the Plot, and Reaching The End « dodging commas

  7. I loved this post! When I was reading it, I was thinking – wow, this is really good, it’s not like how Pete normally writes at all! 😉

    I write things on my to-do list after I’ve done them just to have things to cross off too!

    I aspire to be a planner but I never quite manage it…

  8. Kourtney Heintz says:

    Isn’t there a quote about how life is what happens when we’re making other plans. 😉 I like a plan, but every plan has to be flexible and adaptable. Otherwise it’s an edict and no one likes an edict. 😉 Seriously though, I find myself in similar situations. I’m a planner, but the most extraordinary things happen in my travels and my writing when I veer off course. 😉

    • Stef says:

      I believe it’s also in a Beatles song (that may be where it originated, I’m not sure).

      Flexible plans are the best kind – know what the goal is, but be flexible in how you achieve it and open to changing the goal as you learn things along the way. 🙂

  9. Its a great post,your right on it… 🙂

  10. EllaDee says:

    Pete/Stef, entertaining guest post especially when I first thought it was Pete writing it – the light bulb was slow to go on… There’s all kinds of planners.The plan, the journey, the crossing off of lists, writing new lists can be all wildly variable but still come under the planning umbrella. Otherwise we would be waiting, marking time, but no we are planning, weaving magic, building castles, taking imaginary trips and coming up with words that will be our stories and our lives 🙂

    • Stef says:

      We’ll have to do more tricky things in future and see who catches on … Guess the Writer!

      You phrase it beautifully – thank you for sharing 🙂

  11. Lovely post. I’m mostly a planner but sometimes the writing gets done pantser style. Good luck! Thanks for visiting my blog, come back on Friday for a new flash fiction story.

  12. 4amWriter says:

    Thanks for a neat post. I guess it depends on what subject matter we’re dealing with before I can confidently say I’m a planner. If the day and all of its various levels and facets are controlled utterly and completely and unquestionably by me — then, yes, I’m a planner.

    However, life doesn’t really work like that. Does it? 🙂

  13. Pingback: Plot or Character? « Anne Skyvington

  14. Subtlekate says:

    Since I have begun to edit, I am now much more of a planner. I can see the planning way. I have been brought over to the planners side.

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