words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

You don’t always need a plan

Have you heard the phrase If you fail to plan, you plan to failfly by the seat of your pants

Well, I’m here to tell you, you don’t always need a plan.

In fact, sometimes having a plan can hinder you.

Traditionally, November is “Novel Writing Month”. A group called “Grammarly”, (some of you may have seen them on Facebook), has orgnanised the largest group of authors to collaborate on a single novel.

More than 750 people from around the world have signed up to participate. And I am one of them.

The way it works is as follows: There are 30 chapters with around 25-26 authors being assigned a chapter. Throughout the month of November, one person is assigned to contribute up to 800 words to a chapter each day (30 writers per day), which means the entire novel is written simultaneously.

Yes, simultaneously. So Chapter 1 and Chapter 30 are all being written at the same time.

How does that work?

In truth, I have no idea.

All I know is that I was assigned to write up to 800 words in chapter 10.

Yes, we are given a plot and chapter summaries. In these summaries, we are advised as to what should occur in each chapter. Certain events, milestones, meetings, etc. How that unfolds is very much up to the individual writers.

With writers from all over the world, you can be sure that cultures, genders, religions, morals, beliefs and writing styles will all be different. Add into the mix the different time zones, and you can see it could be a recipe for disaster.

Because how can you possibly plan?

I should let you know that we can read the novel as it unfolds. We are given links to the novel in ‘real time’ and we have a direct link to the chapter that we are writing, so we are not exactly writing blind.

However, I quickly realised that reading the novel as it was unfolding was only adding to my overall confusion, so I simply stuck with my own chapter.

Given we only have 24 hours to contribute our part, and the fact that each chapter evolves on a daily basis, there is not much time for planning.

Today was my day to contribute. I had read my chapter yesterday and it seemed as if the person before me had finished their section. So I began writing my section ahead of time (yes, always wanting to plan) so I could load it up today without too much stress. I felt reasonably happy with where I wanted to take the story, so went to bed feeling quite confident and was really looking forward to finishing it off this morning.

However, as I logged onto my computer this morning, I discovered that someone else had written their section too early, which meant that my section no longer flowed.

No!! What was I going to do? So much for best laid plans and all that.

Due to time zone differences, I only had a few hours to sort it out. As it turned out, it was more of a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ activity, rather than a planned, structured writing session. It was both daunting and fun.

Sometimes, it’s better not to have a plan!

Yes, I am a planner at heart. I’m very organised and like my life to be like that. But when my plans were thrown out of the window, better things resulted.

You see, without a plan, I was free to write whatever came to me.

I was more creative.

I thought outside of the box.

I relied upon my own intuition.

I took ownership of my writing.

I trusted myself more.

And I even made decisions about key characters in the book 🙂

But most of all, I had fun. The adrenalin was flowing and I was in the zone. Within a few short hours, my work was done — and it turned out better than I expected.

Sometimes we need to plan.

But sometimes we need to throw our plans in the bin and allow ourselves the freedom to just go with the flow. To enjoy the moment for what it is, to see where our heart lies and what opportunities may be waiting to be discovered. To fly by the seat of our pants, so to speak.

Yes sometimes we need to plan, but not having a plan doesn’t always equate to failure.

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