GP: How Planning Saved Me by S.R. Severn

It’s Wednesday already, which means it’s guest post day, where I invite writers, editors and other creatives onto my blog to share their wisdom.  Today’s guest is my good friend and fellow writer S.R.Severn. 

Title Image: Guest post: How planning saved me by S.R Severn. Image: Person writing

The Rookie Mistake

I can’t say I’ve always been a serious planner.

I started writing when I was around the age of 12. The first story I had ever written had been a YA fantasy based on me and my friends so no planning was really needed.

I actually published the book through a publishing company (one I had to pay – rookie mistake) which ended up being a real regret for me. When I started my Creative Writing course in University, I had worked on so many different stories that planning really fell flat for me.

The Untimely Leap

It was only after graduating did I set my sights on writing a Romance Fantasy. Absolutely no planning went into the creation of this project. The words, the story, the characters came to me easily.

Until it began to turn into something bigger…something that had me thinking “wow, actually I should probably start making notes”. I had no editor, no professional input at all, and I had just learnt about independent publishing.

I didn’t want to publish under my real name because I didn’t want to link it to the YA fantasy I’d hastily paid to publish years before. So, I came up with S.R. Severn and what did I do? I self-published. Turns out…I’d been hasty AGAIN.

A year or two passed and I had already started the second book in the series but honestly, I felt so lost. I had so many ideas, so many plots…I was literally in a maze, trying to find the right direction. And I did.

I found a fantastic editor, one I honestly don’t know what I did to deserve who helped jump start my second book into readable work. Through no fault of my own or hers, she had to pass me onto another editor who has changed my life completely with a single tip. Planning.

The Path to Better

I bought notebooks. I labelled them with my WIP titles and started with planning the plot from start, middle to end.

I had to make an outline. I had to create a timeline. I had to create an encyclopaedia of every little detail, every character had popped into a scene, their clothes, their appearance, their history.

Then…I had to focus on the world in which my series takes place.

World building is tough, time-consuming and at times frustrating but also fun. I had to address everything about the world, the aesthetic, the machinery, the transportation, the rules, laws, everything!

This was so life-changing for me. Honestly, I felt my anxieties fall away, I grew confident in my characters and their direction. If I forgot something in a scene, all it would take is a quick look in my notebook and it was laid out for me.

Gradually I needed to buy regular notebooks to carry around with me for note-jotting and chapter planning. I made mind maps, bullet points.

Fact: Mind maps seriously helped me answer a lot of questions. For example, I’d write “Why is she afraid of falling in love?” in the middle of a page and let each and every answer come my way, good and bad.

Confession: One night my editor and I had found a major plot hole in my book. I spent the whole night and the following day scribbling away in a notebook, I asked myself probably around 50 questions.

I came up with more answers than I can remember. I didn’t stop writing in that notebook until I had found a solution and in all, by twenty-four hours I had contacted my editor with an absolute solution which WORKED.

Now, I’m not saying that planning has to be so extensive. I’m thorough because I have to be. I know what it’s like being lost. I know what it’s like having no idea where to start or where to go and it’s because of those feelings, I’ve conditioned myself to be a bit of a perfectionist.

I’ll be wholeheartedly honest with you. My characters are rebels by nature. I’ve planned their lives out and they often lead me in a different direction (like a child taking their parent to the kid aisle in the shop).

So, what do I do? I follow them, I appease them but then I slyly find a way of bringing them back on track, making them and myself happy. Deviations are normal but I’m a shameless control freak who wants her way and will get it one way or another!

Before joining Twitter two months ago and meeting the Writing Community, I had assumed that every writer worked the way I did. Honest truth. I had no idea that everyone had their different way of planning.

It sounds silly but it’s the truth. I even know one author who doesn’t plan at all – and she is one of the most talented, natural writers I know. The fact that she does zero planning and allows the story and the characters to take her on a journey absolutely fascinates me.

Lend Me Your Ear

It’s okay if you aren’t a planner. You don’t need to be. But if you want to be, start small. Make bullet points, try a mind map, let your ideas come to you. Or if you’re like me and your characters scream in your head in protest to what you plan, don’t freak out, go with it. Just remember that you’re in control, no one can write your story better than you.

Which leaves me buzzing with curiosity about you…do you plan? Or do you let the story come to you? Do your characters drive you in a different direction?

About S.R. Severn

Photo of Author S.R. SevernSabrina lives in London, UK.

The first romance book she read was a Mills & Boon book. Since then she has been helplessly dedicated to happy endings and true love.

She loved reading and writing so much that she ended up going to the University of Greenwich where she earned a degree in English Creative Writing.

Aside from writing, she is also an avid gamer, compulsive cleaner and recreational baker.

Origin (book 1 of the Jackson J Tales) was published in February 2014 but has recently been unpublished to go through a full rewrite which is still in the works.

Origin

Book cover Origin: The Jackson J Tales by S. R. Severn10 years ago, Ken & Viera were slaves.

Now he’s a pirate and she’s a Highborn, they couldn’t be more opposite.

They both know better than to cross that line but when the burning desire stirs within them, they find it hard to fight the searing attraction that threatens not just their loyalties but also their hearts.

With an impending storm on the horizon and guarded secrets still close to their chests, will they be able to stand against the danger together or be forced to stand apart?

Connect with S.R. Severn

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Goodreads

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Big thanks to Sabrina for being this week’s guest poster.  I hope you enjoyed her article and do please check out her links.

If you have any questions for Sabrina, please drop them in the comments section below.

I’ll be back on Thursday with another Blogger Series post.

Happy writing

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4 thoughts on “GP: How Planning Saved Me by S.R. Severn

  1. I need to be organized. First I need to see the entire story in my mind and if I am sold on it than I can get to work.

    My first novel is making the rounds and while I wait to see if it has a home I am in the early stages of novel number two. I’m sold on the idea. I can see the characters. I know where they need to go but that doesn’t mean they will end up there. I’ve learned the hard way that the characters eventually take over. In time I am merely the messenger.

    This morning I did a brief chapter out line of about a quarter of the novel. That’s as far as I go. I never outline the entire novel. I’ve learned that things can change once the actual writing starts.

    It’s a fascinating journey. I love reading how writers do it. I’m happy you shared your experience with us.

    • Thanks for reading, you do sound very organised! I can start writing without even knowing how the story ends, but I am trying to do more actual plotting these days lol

  2. Great post! I find that my first draft is usually done without planning, or with basic planning (i.e. what one thing do I want to accomplish in a chapter). It’s not until I get into rewrite mode that I start really planning and making sure the story works.
    I think it’s wonderful that you tried your hand at publishing as early as you did, even if it didn’t turn out the way you would have hoped. It proves you’re brave and I that’s the most important aspect of being a writer.

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