Bridging the gulf between what you imagine you write, and what you actually write

There is a vast gulf between the imagined perfection of a book, before it’s written, and the way it actually comes out.

Gravitational lens attributed to the presence of Dark Matter. NASA, public domain.
Gravitational lens attributed to the presence of Dark Matter. NASA, public domain.

It’s something every writer slams into. The issue is actually to do with transferring a sense of emotional fulfilment into the practical written word. It’s especially irritating if you’ve got a publishing deadline – one agreed with a publisher, or one you’ve created yourself to release a book.

There’s the writing, the revising, the proof-editing, the line-editing, the typesetting, the production process, the marketing plan the – aaaargh! You get the picture.

Planning is the bridge between the two – identifying what has to be done, setting out the dependencies, identifying the critical time-constraints, then systematically working through them.

To me, as a writer, planning pays dividends. The twist – which I’m sure I’m not the only one to have thought up – is that this works to any scale. Not just the big-ticket project of a book, but even figuring out how a writing session is going to proceed, before plunging into it.

It also works for time management.

It means I can figure out when and how I’m going to deal with correspondence, social networking, revisions, editing, the writing itself, and so on.

At that level, fifteen minutes sorting out what has to be done that day can save hours of floundering later.

Even ten minutes, actually. Time well spent. I find it’s handy. Do you?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


13 thoughts on “Bridging the gulf between what you imagine you write, and what you actually write

  1. I think planning is especially necessary when you have published at least one book and are writing another one, or more than one. The range of tasks to be performed then is much greater than when you are totally focussed on writing The Book (your first one). Writing that first book is sort of like a honeymoon.

    1. Writing the first book is HARD! Mine took ages, but it got faster as I got practised and there was a time when I was joyously signing up contracts to stack books on fairly tight deadlines, knowing I could handle it and get them out. Practise makes perfect and writing, like any skill, is a practised one – including that myriad of different things that have to be done to bring ‘the idea’ to fruition and in readers’ hands.

      1. It can be hard, but with the first one all you have to do is write. Once you have a book “out there,” it needs marketing attention, which involves totally different skills and actions. When I said writing the first book is a sort of honeymoon, I was referring to the exclusive focus of attention and energy the writer can give it. After that, attention and energy become scattered.

  2. I’m looking at these things at a small scale, but the planning is still necessary. When I’m at home watching the baby, she needs near constant attention. That makes it difficult to write. Well, a lot of writing takes place in the mind. So while I’m rocking/bouncing Hannah, trying to get her to sleep, I’m composing my next flash fiction piece. So when she finally does sleep, I dash to the computer to begin writing. I already have a plan for the story, I just have to type it out. I’m getting more writing done than I thought I would!

    1. It’s amazing how doing something else and putting the active ‘creative writing thinking’ on idle can often trigger amazing results. Arthur C. Clarke apparently used to do it – he’d concoct an idea for a novel, work it up to a certain point, then let it simmer subconsciously. Later he’d go back to it and, according to his account, the content would be there.

    1. Re-evaluation is an essential part of the process. Apparently Roald Dahl used to review everything he’d written to date before writing the next piece, every writing session – a process that I imagine would have rendered his books slower and slower as he progressed through them, but which maybe meant he didn’t have too much re-writing to do by the end.

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