Are You Planning Out Your Story Too Much?

Writing spontaneously is exciting. A lot of the time, you really don’t know what’s going to happen next.


Sometimes, planning out a story before writing it is what pushes people to create amazing things.

But is it possible to overdo it, and plan too much?


There are advantages and disadvantages to doing a little bit of planning before you start writing. But you should never plan in so much detail that you lock yourself into commitments you aren’t sure you will be willing to keep.

Let your ideas unfold

The story you start writing won’t be the story you finish writing. That’s pretty much inevitable … unless you do a little too much planning. I started ghostwriting a series of novellas a few months ago for a client, and in order to do that, I had to first submit chapter-by-chapter outlines of how the story was going to go. At first, I liked it. Then I started writing, and really found that I didn’t like it so much. It felt way too limiting.

To me, coming up with new ideas as I go along s fun. I love watching ideas expand, which you can’t really do as effectively if you lock yourself into a strict outline. Some people, once they have that outline in front of them, can’t stray from that, which is just how some people’s brains operate. If that’s you, I would recommend outlining major plot points, but leaving the connecting elements a mystery.

Surprise yourself

Normally, I don’t like surprises. Except when I’m surprising myself. That doesn’t happen on purpose, and really the only time it happens is when I’m in the middle of writing a story and just come up with something I feel is really awesome or clever (come on, you know you’ve had those moments). I’ve noticed this happens much less often when I’m writing off of an outline.

Writing spontaneously is exciting. A lot of the time, you really don’t know what’s going to happen next. As I have been writing a series of novellas this year for The Novella Concept, because I write them so quickly, I don’t have time to plan anything out other than the major theme that corresponds with whichever charity I’ve chosen to donate the royalties to. So when all of a sudden a character does or says something even I didn’t expect, I am reminded that every once in awhile, not planning ahead really is okay.

Push your story out of its own comfort zone

Does planning out your story before you start writing it make you feel safe? Confident? Reassured? Excellent: this is a good reason you SHOULD plan ahead. The only problem is, we can’t get TOO comfortable. In order to grow as a writer, remember that sometimes means you’re going to have to stretch yourself a little. An outline has the potential to prevent you from stretching.

What I have learned in the past five months or so is that it’s when I write something that makes me go, “No, character, don’t do that,” I enjoy my writing time so much more. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, sometimes I start to second guess myself, but then I just shrug it off and let what will happen, happen. I’ve written some of my best fiction this year (compared to previous years) because of this. It isn’t always going to feel safe. That’s what makes it so worth it.

Don’t feel bad if you are someone who needs to plan in detail. There’s nothing wrong with doing it that way. Just remember to let yourself go off course every once in awhile. Let yourself have a little fun. Whichever way you do it, it’s still all yours. Just don’t limit yourself to an original outline. It’s okay to let your creativity take over.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Image courtesy of

Here’s Some Writing Inspiration for You This Weekend

There’s a big difference between wanting to be a writer and being an aspiring writer.


Do you know what this is?

As you might remember from a few weeks ago, I’ve caught the minimalist bug and have started going through everything I own, trying to get rid of as many things I don’t use as I possibly can. I’ve started with my closet, which you can imagine, is basically where everything I forgot I had lives. That includes very old notebooks (yes, we still used those back in 2009).

What I found on the first page of one of those notebooks was something I never expected to find: the original “plotting” points for a book called Lost and Found, which I would later write, edit and (almost) self-publish.


Sure, I don’t own that stock photo of a Starbucks cup, and it’s not the best book ever written, and I don’t plan on ever actually showing it to the world (this was only the third novel I ever wrote, I was still in high school, I’ve gotten a lot better at writing since then, at least I hope so). But I never expected to find this “outline.” I didn’t even remember I’d written it out.

I’ve been having an extremely productive week, writing-wise. I’m working on two novellas, one for The Novella Concept and one I’m ghostwriting for a client; the novel I started back in November is still making slow but steady progress, and article writing is going full-speed forward as always. I didn’t really need an inspiration boost this week. But maybe you do.

There’s a big difference between wanting to be a writer and being an aspiring writer, at least in my opinion. To me, wanting to be a writer means you someday plan to write for a living. You have a running list of your favorite authors and stories, and you have a few ideas for stories of your own. But beyond that, you don’t have much to show for your want.

Being an aspiring writer, I think, is different, in the sense that aspiring means you’re actually working toward your goal. You’re writing. Maybe you keep trying, and never quite get to the finish line, or you write something but it never gets published. That doesn’t matter. As long as you’re making an effort, as long as you’re saying, “I’m writing this story, it might not be the best but I’m trying,” that’s what sets you apart.

You can get from start to finish. It isn’t impossible. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s the best novel ever written. Worry about whether or not you’re working toward your ambition, and get back to writing.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Meg Dowell.

Blog Frenzy – Day 20

The funny thing about going back to your high school after you’ve “graduated” is how much more attention you get when you’re walking down the hallways than you did when you were actually going to school there. I got stopped by a security guard, two old choirmates, two teachers, and my guidance counselor—who just wanted to say “hey.” Well, thanks for the attention, but I’m on a mission. Let’s go back and time and do this when my mom isn’t waiting in the parking lot. How about three years ago? That would work just fine.

I did, however, get my giant scholarship packet turned in, as well as the letter of recommendation I need for this next scholarship due April 30th. I didn’t get as much done on them as I wanted to yesterday, so I’m either going to have to finish them today (during the time I blocked out for them in my wonderful schedule of schedule-ness) or wait until after my biology test is over. Because I shouldn’t even be doing this right now. I should be studying for my biology test. Yikes, I’m behind!

This is the main reason why I shouldn’t have focused so much of my attention on my novel the past five weeks. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I wrote it. It’s a decent story, one I would have driven myself crazy with if I didn’t get everything written down so fast. But I’m so behind on my schoolwork now that I’m going to be spending the next three days with my phone off, and most likely my computer too—after I’m done sharing my depressing life story with you—just so I can get the A I need on this test. I didn’t do as well on my comm quiz yesterday as I would have liked (7 out of 9 converrted to 25 points? Good luck with that). So I really need to buckle down these next four weeks.

In addition to my AP tests, which I’m going to fail if I don’t go by the $25 prep book I need. Even though I would love for my mother to pay for it, since she’s the one who’s making me take them. But no. I’m supposed to use my $20 Border’s card instead, and she’ll chip in the last $5. Wonderful. I guess Pendragon is going to have to wait.

I’m on a slightly-not-as-tight-as-yesterday-but-still-excessively-structured schedule from now until I go to sleep (at 10:30) so I’ll talk to you guys tomorrow, after I’ve completely lost my mind. Unless that’s already happened. Then I’d appreciate it if you would let me know ASAP. Maybe they’ll give me a scholarship for that.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 16

My word count is something over 71,000, but I don’t remember the exact number. Even more depressing, I’m way too lazy/tired to go look it up. Which, really, would only take a total of three clicks. When I’m too tired to click three times, we officially have an issue.

I would like to be sleeping, please. Under the covers, with the windows open. But no. I had to be dumb and sign up for an all-day nine o’clock class. I don’t really care that there are only five (or four) weeks left. I don’t think I can do this five more times. Seriously, it might kill me. You think I’m kidding.

I would also really like to finish this novel today. I can’t promise that’s actually going to happen, but it would be really great if it could. I have a ton of other things to do besides force myself to write.

Sorry about the short post. I really need to find a way to wake up in the next half hour.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 15


Why did I stop there, you ask? Because writing when you’re tired is a very bad idea. Words start getting into places they don’t belong, and synonym choices start repeating themselves without you even noticing, and everything just starts falling apart. And yes, I realize that I had from three o’clock to ten o’clock to write about 3,000 words. But I lacked the necessary motivation to do so. So I stopped just short of 70,000 words, which was probably a good idea, because the part of Chapter 29 that I’m about to add in takes a lot of brain power to kick into gear. So let’s go kill some snow people (please don’t ask).

My word of the day is satisfactory, because we spent a good portion of my communications class yesterday talking about the difference between satisfactory and unsatisfactory, like how in elementary school we used to get E’s, S’s, and U’s. I never got one U. So ha.

Yesterday was a very satisfactory day. Actually, it was more  than satisfactory: it was beijing. And if you didn’t already know, that means it was amazing. I would tell you all the reasons why, but that might take three days. And that would be wrong and terrible in so many ways. So I’ll just pick out three main reasons why yesterday, April 14th, was the best day I’ve had in the history of ever a very long time.

I got my NHS hours fixed. And by “fixed,” I mean I now have eighteen hours entered into the system, when I really only needed sixteen. This means that (though I will still be nice and layout the invitations) if I don’t want to, I never have to do another act of service again. Don’t get me wrong: I like helping people. But there’s something about an hour requirement that makes volunteering a lot less satisfactory. Anyway, all I have to do now is show up to the last meeting, show up to the ceremony, and pick up my cords.

I found a roommate. Very exciting, if I do say so myself. It’s another thing to cross off the list, of course. And what’s better than a roommate who likes Gilmore Girls, writing, and being awesome? Nothing! So thank you, Olivia, for being awesome. I will see you soon.

And finally:

I got a cookie. But not just any cookie: a smiley-face cookie. Because my mother-dearest loves me so much, and had to order my brother’s birthday cookies anyway. So while she was in there, she thought, “Well, I guess I should get my favorite daughter a cookie.” And I ate it, and it was yummy.

I hope today is just as satisfactory as yesterday. And I hope yours is, too. And I hope I can get to 73,000 words. And I hope I don’t explode submerged in all this hope.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 13

I’m not even going to tell you what my word count is. It’s too embarrassing. (65,336) If you were paying attention yesterday, you would see the problem here.

I finally turned in my music honor society hours yesterday. I actually had six units, instead of five. I feel like such an overachiever. Actually, the real requirement was ten, but he cut my units in half since I was only in school for one semester this year. So really, I’m an underachiever. But that’s only if we’re being technical.

 I turn in my NHS hours today at 3;15—the biggest relief of all. I really wish I could have gotten them done a lot sooner, like last semester. I’m just hoping that I can get the error in his count straightened out, since only half of my outside hours so far have been counted. He’d better count the hours I spent holding sick babies in my lap at Evie’s church. I spent four and a half days on the couch because of those hours. And besides, if I don’t get them counted for some reason, I won’t have met my requirement. So I won’t get my cords, and the world will probably end right then and there.

But he should count them. I mean, it’s his fault anyway.

unfortunately, I’m going to have to put writing on hold for a few more hours. You have to learn to do that sometimes, when there are more important things you absolutely have to do first. I have to spend a few more hours re-formatting that program I worked so hard on, since they didn’t like the way I did it. Or something. And yes, I will spend a few more hours on it, so that he’ll give me five hours instead of three. That way, I’ll have the “technically” required ten outside hours, instead of the eight that I would have had otherwise. No, he didn’t cut my hours in half. He just let me get away with sixteen instead of 25. Even though I’ll already have more than that, because of my (hopefully) ten outside hours.

I’m not a cheater. I just like things to be perfect, that’s all.

Speaking of perfect, I got the score I wanted on my quiz yesterday. That means I’m one step closer to that A I still think I deserve. That one persuasive speech killed my grade. But that’s okay, because I’m pretty sure that this next speech is going to be awesome. I just have to prepare like crazy and not go OVER TIME like I did last time. I lost seven points for talking too slow. Yeah.

I should probably get started on this re-formatting, if it’s going to take me a few hours.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 12

We’re almost halfway through April. That means I’m not a failure, things are about to get a whole lot easier, and the sun is going to stop hiding behind cold. Boo for burning, but tanning is always nice.

I wrote a little over one thousand words yesterday, putting my word count just over 65,000. My goal is seriously to have this thing done by Friday. I’m falling way too behind, I have five more scholarships to do before April 30th, and if I don’t go on that Border’s field trip with Evie and friends soon, she’s going to come over here and rip my head off. And then she’ll sew it back on and drag me by the hair all the way there. She’s just that determined.

I just cleaned my room the other day. So why is it a mess again? This makes absolutely no sense to me. Maybe if I just leave it messy, we wouldn’t keep having this problem. Every time I get it perfect, I need something. And then I end up messing it up again. So maybe I just need to stop needing things. This is going to be interesting next year when I have to keep my side of the room clean for the sake of my roommate. I doubt I’ll have much to mess it up with. But you’d be surprised.

I wish I could get a ton of writing done today. But I also have to catch up on my comm homework (which I had a week and a half to do—go figure) before class. And then after that, I have to make sure I have my service logs in order for the meeting at three. But I’m finally getting them turned in today! I probably could have turned them in last month, but there’s just something about waiting until the last minute that makes things a bit more exciting. After that, though, I’m free for awhile. Free to write, I mean.

Seriously. I’ll catch up on school next week.

It’s not that I want to rush through this novel. Because I really like this story, and where it’s going, and I wish it didn’t have to end. But it also takes a ton of time out of my day to work on it, time that I honestly don’t really have right now. I’m kind of breaking the rules here, making time to write when I should probably be doing other things. But you have to understand: if I don’t work on this thing, it’s just going to sit there. And that is not a good thing to do to your unfinished novel. i know i’ve said that a thousand times before.

I’m guessing about 15,000 more words. That seems like a lot, but it really isn’t. I know it kind of seems like this thing just keeps going, but it’s vital to the story. I can’t just stop it here. I hate that it’s going to be longer than the first book in the series, but I guess Melanie’s problems take up a lot more time and space than Anna’s. Not that Anna’s problems aren’t unimportant. Entirely.

By this time tomorrow, I will have shed a huge chunk of responsibility off my back. And after the meeting tomorrow, I’ll be even closer to a responsibility-free summer.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 11

Word count: 63,712. Chapter: 27. Page: 192.

I don’t think I’ll be able to finish this thing today like I would have hoped. I have homework to do, and more scholarships/program layout to do. And laundry to put away. Yes, Colleen, my laundry was hiding in my closet the entire time. Heehee.

I got sunburn through my shirt. I’m not exactly sure how that happened. But I sat outside most of the day in the sun and worked on this chapter that I’m still not done with. I’m adding in a few eements to this thing that I wasn’t really expecting to put in, so it’s taking a little longer to think through. But that’s okay, because I think I’m going to miss these characters. There are still more stories I have to tell about them, of course, but I’m going to have to put them on hold. School kind of needs to be my priority right now.

I still haven’t gone to Borders. But honestly, I can’t risk too many more distractions right now. The good news is, I’m turning in all my hours this week. So I’ll have those responsibilities off my chest. I can’t wait! In other news, I want to color in a coloring book.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 10

As of this moment, I’m at 60,804 words.

Yesterday was kind of a slow day. I didn’t get much writing done in biology, only because my prof kept talking about things that aren’t in the book or notes. So I actually sort of had to pay attention to what he was saying. But that was okay, because I learned plenty of things about wolves that I never would have known otherwise. Did you know that their gestation period is only 63 days? That’s because they mate in January and February, and they have to be somewhat grown before the winter comes around again, or it’s not likely that they’ll survive. But you probably either already knew that or wish you didn’t.

I’m not sure how many words I’m going to be able to get in today. I somehow got stuck designing the programs for NHS’s induction ceremony next month (at least I get paid in hours). And I have two scholarships due next week. I think. But I might as well get as many of them done today as possible, because I’m also extremely behind on all of my schoolwork. Seriously. Weeks behind.

This is why I wanted to get my novel finished this weekend. But we’ll see how that goes. I could either work on it all day today and possibly get it even closer to completion, and get all my work done at the last minute tomorrow. Or I could try to be responsible and get all my work done this morning, so I have all the time in the world tomorrow to work on my novel, no pressure.

Personally, I like the second option. You’re not even supposed to do real work on Sundays, anyway.

Right now, Melanie is getting lectured by an unexpected mentor. But the advice she’s being given is actually proving to be useful. So she’s going to visit some people before the day is done. But that’s all I’m going to say, because Evie is sitting at her laptop going, “I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you.” Except she doesn’t really hate me. She just hates the fact that I’m keeping novel secrets from her and tossing out hints along the way. Hints that she’s totally not even picking up.

Or is she?

On top of scholarship essays and program designing, my room somehow got messy again without me noticing. So I should probably take care of that before it gets out of control (again). You know, I’m still not really sure how that happens. You clean your room and expect it to stay that way. For a few days, you make the extra effort to put everything in its place and make your bed, etc. And then a few more days go by, and you start getting lazy. The next thing you know, you can’t see your floor. And you’re almost afraid to go in there.

I’m pretty sure I only have like five weeks of school left. Of course, I’m not even free after that, because I have to take the ACT at college orientation. But that’s okay. I’m not going to spend twelve hours a day three weeks in a row studying for it. Though, if I did, there’s a good chance I’d get that 28 I’m pushing for. College is expensive. For some reason, higher test scores equal more money I won’t have to pay back later. I don’t really understand the whole concept. I always score lower on tests than I should. Except for the high school placement tests, when they told me I should skip algebra 1 and go right into geometry. Yeah, right.

I’m not going to tell you how many more chapters are left. But I’m very excited for each and every one of them! Except for the next one. I haven’t really figured out how it fits into the rest of the novel yet. That’s sort of a problem. But oh well.

I’ll try not to let all this work kill me. And if it does, you’ll never know. Because no one else knows my password.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 8

I seriously need to stop waking up at ten o’clock. Now I’m way behind on what I was supposed to get done today when I should have woken up at 7:30. Fascinating.

 The good news is, i had a free day yesterday. No cummunications (and little communicating whatsoever with the world, besides Evie) and no voice lessons (though there was some singing, thanks to that shower I took at one point). The advantages to this free day included me being able to sit down at nine o’clock and write slowly for about thirteen hours, while also wasting time on Facebook, etc. But I made up for the writing I didn’t get done on Tuesday, and finished the day off having written almost exactly 8,000 words. So by the time I finally went to sleep, my word count was 58, 179. Which made me very happy.

I plan on finishing this thing very soon. So until then, I am putting off all other work and responsibilities. Not including tutoring, since that’s kind of a necessity at this point. I also somehow got stuck being responsible for designing the programs for NHS’s induction ceremony next month. And by “got stuck,” I pretty much mean I volunteered, expecting that someone else had already offered. I was the first one. So now I have to go meet with him as soon as possible. Which probably means missing math today, since this is ten times more important at this point.

I didn’t take my notes for class anyway. So it all works out.

This book is going to end up being longer than I expected it to. I was planning on making it around the same number of pages/words that the first book in the series was (70,600 words, 211 pages). But it doesn’t look like 12,000 more words is going to be enough to cover everything else that Melanie and her friends have to deal with before the novel is over. So I’m just going to stop looking at word count and write, write, write.

I’m not excited for tomorrow. Though tomorrow is Friday, and tomorrow means another glorious weekend (already), tomorrow also means back to biology. Back to a class from nine to twelve, or one, or two, or however long he’s going to keep us this time. This will be the first time I haven’t gone to biology completely prepared since the first day of class (sort of). But like I said, it’s not my main concern right now. I’ll catch up on everything as soon as this novel is finished. I hope.

I should probably get to writing. This day is starting to look a little hectic.

Love&hugs, Meg♥