The planning stage: Midweek ROW80 check-in

I have to admit that my favorite part of the writing process is when my fingers are pounding the keys, filling a blank page with words. I used to be a full-out pantser, but I kept getting stuck on my first drafts, so I decided to do some planning. It’s definitely helped my writing. I’m a better writer now than I was a year ago, that’s for sure. I’ve come to enjoy the process of discovery that’s part of the planning stage.

When I’m planning, I’m writing scene ideas on index cards; crafting a rough synopsis; writing an outline; tracking down photos of key characters, objects, or places; or doing world-building or character backstory. All of these things add depth, add layers to my story. Sometimes I’ll do some of this as I go—I’m constantly being surprised by details about my world or my characters as I write. But knowing as much as possible beforehand helps me create richer first drafts.

Steampunk! | photo by Cole Vassiliou, WANA Commons
Steampunk! | photo by Cole Vassiliou, WANA Commons

The planning stage has its perks—I spent part of yesterday looking up shoes with a steampunk flair for my new story, and there is something satisfying about getting to know your characters before you dig into the story. I enjoy looking for photos of my characters. This story has an element of mystery, so I want to make sure I can sprinkle clues throughout the story from page one.

What about you? What’s your favorite part of the writing process? How much planning do you do before you put pen to page—or fingers to keys?

A midweek ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals:

1.) Finish a first draft of novella/novelette “Haunted Kisses.” No progress. Instead worked on a detailed, for-my-eyes-only synopsis for my steampunk story. Still a few holes to be filled in, but I’m off to a good start.

2.) Finish a second draft of novelette “Called by Magic.” On hold.

3.) Do a read-through of “Good Old-Fashioned Magic,” make necessary edits, and send to critique partners. On hold.

4.) Read three books on the craft/business of writing. Started reading “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass.

Social media goals:

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. On track to meet this goal.

2.) Blog twice a week. Counting the cover reveal for Ruth Nestvold’s “Island of Glass” that I posted yesterday (gorgeous cover—check it out here) and this post, I’ve met this goal.

3.) Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Met for Monday. Only commented on one or two blogs on Tuesday.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

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Fantasy & paranormal romance author. Witch. Tarot reader. Possibly a woodland sprite. Debut release TANGLED ROOTS now available. Magic awaits at

19 thoughts on “The planning stage: Midweek ROW80 check-in

  1. I’ll comment here and then you comment over on my blog. That gives you at least one for today.

    I won’t put social media up as goals. I will get stuck there and do no writing at all, and never meet any goals. Good luck on the novel planning.

    1. I’m such an introvert that if I don’t post social media as part of my goals, I’ll forget to go on Twitter for a week. I like that ROW80 keeps me accountable on that front.

      Thanks for commenting!

      1. Teaching had cured me from my introversion. Now I’m just confused, not knowing when to talk and when to shut up. Forgetting to go on Twitter is a saving grace. I’d get so much more done if I did that.

      2. Yeah, it’s definitely easy to get sucked into Twitter or Facebook. You say you’ll go on for five minutes and you end up spending 30. It’s one of mysteries of social media, I suppose.

  2. I love the planning stage! That’s when every work is perfect and we haven’t yet been confronted by our limitations and the realization: nope, it won’t be perfect after all. 🙂

    Have fun and good luck!

    1. So true. I’m definitely having a lot of fun discovering my world and researching all those little details. This story is a Cinderella retelling in a steampunk world, so figuring out how to blend those two is exciting.

      Thanks! 🙂

  3. It’s great to adapt as we go, and it sounds like you’re doing that. I like the ‘on hold’ because it means something else came up and you’re being flexible. I need to learn to be more flexible 🙂

    1. I’m trying to get better at working on multiple projects simultaneously, but my natural instinct is to focus on one project at a time. I have so many projects at different stages now that keeping them straight can be exhausting. It’s definitely teaching me to be flexible–and how to balance multiple projects, a skill I’ll surely need once I’m published.

  4. Wow, Denise! It looks like your new project has sideswiped your previous goals. Doncha just love when that happens, though? Adjust your goals so you can gleefully concentrate on what’s speaking to you now, without feeling guilty about ‘but I’m supposed to be working on this other thing instead’. Guilt will kill your productivity. I love that about ROW80 – we are allowed to be flexible with our goals. I’ve met a few ROWers who change their goals every week. 🙂 I tend to make my own goals habit-building-oriented, rather than working on specific titles, so as long as I’m working towards the habit I want to establish, then it’s all good. 😀
    I also understand having social media as a goal. It’s such an important tool for us writers these days, no matter how we publish – we need to learn how to use ALL our tools, and use them well.

    1. I love how flexible ROW80 is. I still plan to work on my other projects, but I don’t think I’ll finish my other goals AND write a novel in the next three and a half months. It’s just not gonna happen. But I’m just enjoying the journey. You’re right; I can change my goals whenever I need to. That’s the great thing about ROW80–how self-directed it is.

      Yes. I need to list social media as a goal. Otherwise I get caught up in my story world and forget to put myself out there. Once I do, I love connecting with other writers and learning about their processes and projects.

      Thanks for commenting, Tammy! 🙂 Take care.

  5. I’m just beginning to figure out this whole plotting a book thing out. I kind of like it. I feel like huge gaps in my story are falling into place (mostly just with tiny details here or there that end up being significant later on). It’s very empowering to write this way.

    1. So true. It took me a while–years–to realize I just couldn’t fly by the seat of my pants anymore. I needed some sort of plan. I didn’t need to know everything, but I needed to know more. Especially if your story has a mystery element, planning helps. It allows you to foreshadow, drop breadcrumbs for readers along the way. Of course, those things can be added in a second draft, but it’s definitely easier for me when I know more about my story and can add that info in the first draft.

  6. I love the drafting stage, but I really love what comes before. Especially figuring out the characters. I think my favorite part of my plotting process is writing the characters’ back stories. Love finding out how their lives affect the way they are now.

    1. I love learning new details about my characters. Some of that comes during the planning stage, and sometimes a character surprises me mid-scene and I suddenly understand them in a way I didn’t before. I’m definitely enjoying the world-building aspects of my current story. I’ve never done steampunk before, so I’m trying to understand my world more thoroughly before I really dig into the story. It’s a blast!

  7. Great job on your progress! I’m a pantser, but might take some of your planning ideas. I need to at least evolve into a plotser – I think it’ll be better for my writing. Great post! 🙂

    1. I used to be a pantser, but I’ve slowly transitioned to being a plotter–most of the time, anyway. My stories still surprise me along the way. I hope some of the ideas I mentioned are useful to you. Even looking up images of characters can be helpful for the writing process and doesn’t interfere with the pantser method. Thanks!

  8. I’ve been hugely happy with my open-ended, easily adjusted, planning. Each step leads from the last and to the next, in a way that really has me creating a sketchy pre-draft before I begin the writing. I used to have a few very vivid scenes in my head, and struggle to figure out the rest as I went along. Needless to say, those drafts are – well, you know, I’ll bet!

    Now, I do enough noodling and simmering before I start that I have a basic sense of each scene and what it’s doing, as well as knowing my characters far better.

    I’m a bit over a third of the way through my final steps in the process – getting those Who What Where When Why How sheets done and setting them up in the sidebar of each scene’s Scrivener file, so I can reference (and likely change!) them as I go along in the writing next month.

    I’m really liking what this story is showing me, already, and I think I’m going to have a LOT of fun writing it! =D

    I feel like you’ll be having fun, too!

    1. I’m definitely enjoying the planning/research phase. I’m gotten to look at beautiful images of Victorian dresses, research more about the steampunk genre, and track down images of most of my main characters. It’s been a great process so far. This story is definitely stretching my abilities as a writer. I’m glad for the challenge.

      I agree that knowing more about each scene you’re going to write–or most of them, anyway–helps the process go more smoothly. Happy writing, Shan Jeniah!

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