Planning My Work

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“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Our resident hound asked, “Typically, how many drafts do you complete — of a novel or novella — before you submit it to a publisher / editor / agent? Why?” 

When I first started writing, I’d start writing and had to rewrite huge sections. It took seven years and several rewrites to finish The Samurai’s Garden. But after ten years I’ve learned a thing or two that make the process much smoother. I write a story once, and edit bits and pieces as I go along. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. I usually plan my stories. I rarely dig into a manuscript until I’ve worked out several plot points, often using either a graphic organizer or outline that follows an established story structure. Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes and Romance Beat Sheets by Jami Gold are two that I like to use. I’ve also used various versions of Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.
  2. In addition to planning out the storyline, I spend time working out three important details about my main characters. These are described in GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Deb Dixon. In a romance, there are two main characters (the hero and the heroine), so I work that out for both. In other words, What does he (she) want, why does he (she) want it, and what’s standing in the way that needs to be overcome? Usually one or more of these questions need to overlap between the two main characters – for instance, the hero might be what’s standing in the way of the heroine getting what she wants, or perhaps they both want the same thing for different reasons, so they work together to get it.
  3. I also spend time working out two other important details that help to define my characters and drive the plot. These are the internal conflict (and in a romance, often both main characters need one) and the external conflict (the big thing that’s keeping them both from getting what they want). Sometimes I’ll lose sight of one of these and start rambling about things that don’t help solve either problem. This is another reason why I need my outline. 
  4. I don’t write in a linear fashion. Even with an outline, I start at the beginning, then write the ending, and then work on stuff in the middle. I’m not sure why I work this way, but it’s what works for me. Lots of times I’ll read a book that way too. I read the beginning to see if it interests me, jump to the end to find out where they end up, and then I’ll go back and read the middle to find out how they got there. Anyway, sometimes my characters will surprise me and go off in another direction, but generally they always get to the happy ending that’s the hallmark of a traditional romance. When that happens, I go back to my outline and decide what alterations need to be made.

Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a funny scene, or a good opening, or a romantic ending, and I’ll write that down, thinking it’ll develop into a story. And sometimes I can make it work, but not until I get the first three items above worked out. Whenever I try to just write, I end up with a jumbled mess that has so many plot holes and inconsistent characters that I’d never want to submit it anywhere. As a teacher, I never show up to teach a class without knowing what I’m going to cover, what materials I’m going to use, and how I’m going to present the information. So to me, it makes sense that I can’t tell a good story without planning ahead.

About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
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5 Responses to Planning My Work

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    I knew we’d learn that you are super organized about your writing process — how else could you accomplish all the things you do, in so many different areas of creative output, family, career, etc?
    But I still found myself amazed at the ORDERILNESS of your approach.
    Compared to your practice, I’m rather like the guy mentioned in the notable quote attributed to Wm. Faulkner: “writing a novel is like a one-armed man knocking together a chicken coop during a hurricane.” [Paraphrased… since the only source I could find was Walker Percy writing to an author friend and mentioning Faulkner’s quote.]

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      You are far too kind, Jeff. I really like the Faulkner quote! Even with all the planning and outlining, my story ends up like a hurricane-tossed chicken coop before I start editing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Experience: I think a lot is learned by trial and error. As in any other endeavor, I think writers must find out what works for them. You have to go with your intuition and what is comfortable for you.

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    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      True. I hate wasting time, and my experience has taught me that I waste far less writing time if I have a plan. So this works for me.

      Like

  3. I admire that you can sit down and create such a well thought out plot and plan for your novels and then actually get there! I have tried to do that thinking that it would make writing easier and more productive however it seemed to stunt my creativity. I can’t seem to write unless I’m flying blind. I really like reading about how other authors plot out their works.

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