Professional Writers Plan Their Writing Ahead of Time

This is number ten in the list, “15 Success Habits of Professional Authors and Writers” by Tom Corson-Knowles. I bet a lot of novelists will find fault with this one! There is a group of staunch supporters of the “pantser” variety, that profess to write by the seat of their pants without any planning or outlining whatsoever. I believe, that whether you are a pantser or a plotter (the opposite of pantsers), you must still have a plan.

I don’t believe that anyone can just sit down at a computer, open a blank document, and type away, producing a professional, best-selling novel. That isn’t how it works. I have read a lot of self-published novels on my Kindle, though, that actually read like this is what the author did. The plots ramble all over the place. The story is sometimes repetitious, yet sometimes jumping from one scene to another without the smooth flow one comes to expect from a well-written novel. Many self-published novels could be greatly improved if the authors had taken the time to do a final edit, or some rewriting, to tighten their plot, develop their scenes, and build stronger characters.

Planning doesn’t have to mean the same thing for everyone. Some writers will only need to plan in their heads what they are going to write, and then let it develop on the page. These writers often have to spend more time in the rewriting stage, because their plots are not as well-crafted as the author who creates a solid plot outline before he begins to write. But maybe their stories are freer, more imaginative, to make up for it.

Some writers will create tight plot outlines, detailed character sketches, and take copious research notes before they begin to write. Then, with all that planning behind them, they are able to crank out 2,000 to 10,000 words a day!

These are the two extremes – the minimal planner and the detailed planner. Most of us fit somewhere in between. The point is not how you plan, only that you do create a plan. Your writing will be more professional if you do.


  1. Courage says:

    We all have our own writing styles, yes, I agree with that! But there are some common elements, as well. For those people who “write by the seat of their pants” – who let the plot happen as they go along, they may just have more work to do in the re-writing phase. Suppose you’re three-quarters of the way through your book, and suddenly, for your plot to make sense, the hero has to have a special talent or character trait. Maybe he needs to own a dog, or speak Indonesian, or be a black-hat computer hacker. That’s great! But then, you need to go back to the beginning of the book and work that in there. Someone who has already laid a basic plot outline might already know that at the beginning of the book and can foreshadow that plot element. I once wrote an entire (unpublished) novel, thinking that the romance was between A and B, but by the end of the book I realized it was really between A and C… B was just a passing fancy that she outgrew! So now I have to go back and foreshadow that in the beginning.

  2. racheldevineuk says:

    I would not presume to tell any other writer how to write, this applies only to me. All I will say is that I have never planned or plotted a novel in my life, and that is the only way I know how to write. I simply have an idea, or a sentence, which I write down and then it begins to write itself from there. I have no idea how the story will unravel, or what will happen to the characters, or how many characters there will be. I start at the beginning, and continue through to the end. I cannot write sections out of sequence, although I do occasionally go back and weave other characters into the story. Sometimes I keep writing until 2 or 3 in the morning, because I am dying to know what is going to happen to the characters. Perhaps I might be a better writer if I did sit down and plan my book, although I did try it once, and it became dull and boring. I can only write if I become fully immersed in the story I am writing, which is why I tend to write mainly in the first person. Anyway, as I said, this is just my way. Each to their own, I say.

    A successful writer, whose work I respect, says that she writes very slowly, editing each page as she goes along, and perhaps I write too quickly, so I am going to try to slow down a little. This is the only change I am contemplating at the moment. I had not heard of Tom Corson-Knowles before, but have now Googled him and see that he is a blogger and writer. Well, Tom, thanks for the advice, but I am not sure that I will be heeding it.

Leave a Reply