Planners and pantsers: outlining my novel

When I was a teacher I used to plan like mad. I would create whole unit plans that would cover 4 or 5 weeks of work, then break that down into a weekly overview and would develop detailed plans for each individual lesson. Planning really helped me work out what I wanted to include in my classes, as well as what I needed to include to reach particular teaching and learning objectives; it helped me stay on track when it was so easy to deviate or get distracted. I am a HUGE fan of planning, but I learnt really early on that the ability to throw the plan out of the window when needed is of equal importance to planning.

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World Poetry Day

Today is World Poetry Day and I’ve been reflecting on poetry in my life in varying shapes and forms.


Lord_ByronApparently Lord Byron is in my family tree somewhere – my dad told me about it ages ago, but I don’t remember quite how he fits in. I like to think that gives me some special kind of writerly super-power, but in all honesty, even though I love reading poetry, my attempts at writing it (no matter how much I enjoy the act) are rudimentary at best:

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Writing activities to prompt your writing

What writers do is write…I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before, as have many people before me. At times, writing on particular projects can be labored and finding ideas becomes like panning for gold in modern day teen accessory store! When this happens to me, I do some writing activities. Any writing is better than none, plus, in my experience, this is the quickest way of finding hidden gems.

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The reading writer: finding inspiration from your reading

Like a Bowerbird, I have become an avid collector. I imagine inside my mind there is an open space delicately lined with found language, words of beauty – it is quite a thing to behold! I tuck each snippet away, weaving one line, one word, with others.

Bower-Bird-NestIt is the hope of every male Bowerbird that his blue-blessed bower will attract a twittering mate. My bower will attract great ideas from which stories will flow. As I gently tuck these phrases into my collection, other previously collected words stand out, or are plucked out, and used to prompt my writing. Of this I am certain: collecting small well-crafted gems from other writers inspires me in ways I would never have thought possible. Photo credit.

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More than writing

My writing has been slowing up a little and becoming more of an effort than when I first began. I started writing 1,500 words each day, but after almost a week, this took a down turn and even banging out 300 words seemed immensely difficult. I have tried all kinds of things to get back on track, to fish for more ideas, etc. etc. That is not to say all of the work I have done has been in vain – quite the contrary. I have a basic story plot, I created a concept for my novel and I have been developing my characters. What has helped me the most so far though is time.

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Creating character

I have been creating more characters for my novel and, given the novel has some historical basis, I have been researching too. History is rife with interesting tales. As a writing activity, select a place, breifly research its history, its culture, etc., and write a brief character profile on one of its previous inhabitants – in whatever format you want (dot points, a list of characteristics, a character biography paragraph. As you write, try to find the ‘voice’ of the character. It is a useful exercise to write this for a character who is completely different to you, trying to write in a voice that is not your own, but that belongs fully to the character.

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Concept writing activity

Generating a concept for your writing

Novel writing is not a task to be scoffed at or taken lightly. It is a massive undertaking! Having a robust concept can help you keep a strong focus while taking plot deviations, encountering numerous characters and creating multiple twists and turns.

“I hold the world but as the world…
A stage where every man must play a part,”                      

Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

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