Teagan Kearney/G.N. Kearney: Writer: DO YOU PLAN ...OR NOT?


You could say planning is like a joke (no, I didn’t say planning is a joke) because we don’t all find the same joke funny. So, in the same way, there is no one way to write a story. For some writers, characters and narrative evolve while they plan, for others stories unfold and reveal themselves as they write. In one scenario the planning is external and in advance, and in the other, it’s internal and ongoing.

Ideas for stories can appear fully formed or as small seeds which need nourishment, and we either take hold of them or let them go. Once the inventive wheels are turning, planning can provide a structured focus which frees you up to start writing. If you do decide to plan, your  characters, setting, POV (point of view), backstory, dramatic arc, beginning and end of the story can be outlined in as much detail, or not, as you want.

When I have an idea for a new story, I mull it over in my mind till I know who my character is, where the story starts, where I want to take it and how I want it to end. Yet what often happens once I’ve started writing is that I reach a certain point - and like someone on a journey who’s following a map and arrives at a bridge which has collapsed, I can see the other side, I just don’t know how to get there. That’s when I stop, backtrack a bit and plan, because by now I know my characters etc., but what I need to know is exactly how I’m going to reach my destination.

Now this works for me. It may not work for you. I would say the single most important thing about  planning an outline is that you don’t have to stick to it. If it isn’t working, chuck it out and write another one; chuck it out and just write letting the characters and story reveal themselves along the way - which I find happens anyway even when writing with an outline.

Writing is a process which brings ideas to life through the creation of characters and events. How to accomplish this isn’t set in concrete. No creative process can be reduced to an all encompassing formula. As Marian Allen said 'Whatever works!'

P.S.This was written as a response to one by Steve Imagineer on July 13th titled 'Rethink Advice to Writers' (see below - Useful Links). My original idea was to write about why writers should use outlines, but after reading the article and the comments from those who responded, I decided to write a different post!

Writing Update 
Currently I’m deep in the throes of fixing my embarrassingly long list of overused words. Although I have to admit, despite the length of the list, it’s a good way to go through a novel. When replacing a word I have to look closely at what I’m trying to say, and I’ve found sometimes a phrase rather than a single word works better - as it not only clarifies but expands on the meaning. The one exception so far is the word ‘again’ for which, in the majority of cases, the delete button was the most effective remedy. I may be in this valley of woes for a while... 

Today’s Haiku 
bright sun in my eyes
sparkles bounce off glass windows  –
I like my warm skin 

Useful Links:

If you have any questions you think I can help with, then please go to Adrianna’s great website at where you will find a Writers Surgery page or email me at

If you do want to check out how to plan a novel, you couldn’t do better than to check out Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method at: 
Read Steve's post at:

Reading Recommendations:   Roads Taken (5 great short stories) by M. Joaquim  Gold Dragon Haiku - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.


  1. I think planning would help to a degree, especially when stuck or kind of like a prompt to get the process moving again.

    Good luck on finding new or better words. Stephen King gives good advice in the Toolbox section of On Writing on pages 114-118, for a refresher. (Showing off Teagan!) Not really, I'm working on the series of articles about his book. Your post rang a bell!

    I appreciate your posts Teagan!

  2. I agree with you about planning, A., and this is pretty much how I use it. And thank you so much for your support, it's much appreciated - as is the Stephen King tip - I'm reaching over to the bookshelf right now!

  3. I take a pretty similar approach. I plan a bit, but I focus on the characters more. By this point, I've learned that they're truly the drivers of the story. I'm just lucky enough to go along for the ride.

  4. I write first then go back and plan, then write again, then do more planning, then write. It sounds tortuous but it isn't really. The first draft is always going to be incomplete, the first plan often gives me new ideas, the second draft builds upon those ideas and sends me back to the planning stage to refine the details that I then incorporate into the body of the novel. I find this approach allows me to both keep control of the plot and to remain creative.

  5. Thank you for sharing, Peter, and it doesn't sound chaotic as I think writing includes being open and flexible to ideas that arise as you write - and your method makes this easy.


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