To Plan or Not to Plan?

To plan or not to plan? That is the question! (With apologies to Shakespeare’s Hamlet). I spoke about planners and pantsers in Newsletter #1 and suggested that planning was probably more efficient. After all, surely it’s quicker to know what the story is before you start, and simply write it? But as I concluded then, writers are rarely purely one thing or another.

I’ve been tempted to switch from being a pantser to a planner since finishing my five book Angel Caste series, because as I also mentioned in Newsletter #1, writing the final book was very demanding. Actually it was exhausting and I feared I wouldn’t be able to pull the 300,000 words story-line together successfully and satisfyingly. I believe I did but it made me anxious about starting a series without a plan. Maybe it’s why I’ve delayed the decision by writing a stand-alone first; a stand-alone I have actually planned!

Yes! I completed 30 chapter summaries for I Heard The Wolf Call My Name before I started the novel but … I’ve rarely looked at them since! The eight thousand words I have written have already diverged significantly from the plan but does it matter? The summaries tell me there is a story and that it works, which is reassuring, but is it the story I really want to write?

The story I want to write has now taken on its own spark, and its own direction, as stories often do, and I get a big kick out of stories springing to life like this, and revealing exciting twists and turns. Of course, writing a plan, in whatever form, is also a way of thinking out a story and of exploring story possibilities, so it is never a waste.

For instance, I taught in China a lot when I was writing The Kira Chronicles trilogy, and after classes, would sit in my hotel room, with my feet on the window sill, enjoying the warm summer evenings and filling notebooks with hand-written notes on what Tierken would do, or Kira, or Caledon.

Sometimes I would scribble down that an idea was ridiculous, or that a particular action would never work. I never read the notes again but it was super helpful in sorting out the story that became the trilogy first, and later the series.

The other thing that indirectly helps my writing is travel. I was lucky enough to visit New Zealand early this year, one of my favorite places and the setting for Peter Jackson’s versions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and then more recently, Hong Kong, Japan and Hawaii. I always take a few phone pictures, but mainly I just sponge up what I am seeing. My husband was keen to see Kilauea erupting but it stopped two days before we got there. He was disappointed but our helicopter flight over the Big Island revealed deep emerald-green valleys, silver ribbon waterfalls, and sheer coastal cliffs that plunged straight into the sea.

Guess what inspired the landscape of I Heard The Wolf Call My Name? And Hawaiian, like Maori (the language of the First Nation peoples of New Zealand) is a member of the Polynesian language family. Tamati is a Maori name, as is Anahera,and there are other Polynesian words I’ve altered to make them my own.