― Steve Maraboli
Almost everything I’ve ever learned about writing I learned from making mistakes. Most of the time, the mistakes don’t hurt anyone but me. Often they come from a failure to plan the work. If you’re working from a plan, you can always adjust, backtrack, or take a new direction. You have plenty of leeway to turn and twist, and head off in a new direction. But you always do well to start with a plan.
The focus keeps the task at hand…at hand, so to speak. Early on in writing, but never early enough, a good friend and a prolific author told me “never sit down to write unless you know where you’re going.” This in fact, is the best advice I’ve ever been given.
When I first learned this, I still worked full-time and had a lot of responsibility at home. Since my husband and I owned a business, I had a lot on my plate. The first hour of daily writing was wasted on the guilt trip how I could better spend the time I was “wasting” on writing. Not published at the time, I took time-wasting very seriously. I thought I should be doing things or paperwork that was business related: bookkeeping, ordering, organizing, or selling new accounts.
I wasted about an hour guilt tripping, then procrastinating, and agonized later that neither task was productive. I didn’t get the bookkeeping, selling, organizing or the fiction writing done.
When I learned to end the writing every day (according to the time allotment) I marked the end of the session with a plan for where I would go next with my story. Eureka!
Thus the new guideline became, don’t start writing unless you know where you’re going with the story. In other words, plan just a little bit, such as the next scene, the next chapter, or up to the next pinch point or turning point. Not too far ahead, but just enough to keep you going. Kind of like headlights on the road in the dark. You only need to see so far ahead, not enough to be considered a “plotter” but enough to keep you on a steady course for accomplishing something productive.
This kind of progress keeps you on track without letting you write a hundred pages you’ll need to rewrite later. Of course, we all realize there will be re-writes later. But still, we’re making progress.