Know where you’re going, whether walking or writing


It’s easy to get lost if you don’t know where you’re going.

Last week we took the ferry to Vancouver Island and combined our visiting with a bit of camping (okay, RVing for you purists). We spent our first night at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park with its 347 hectares of old growth, picnic sites and campground, plus two kilometers of sandy beach and magnificent views.

We tucked the fifth wheel and truck into a convenient spot and wandered off to find the shore before sunset. There was a well worn trail not far from our campsite, not marked, but it seemed to head in the right direction, so off we went.


Shadows lengthened. We discovered a few delights along the way, but no sign of the ocean. Eventually we came to a wide wire gate leading onto a street of private homes and caught a glimpse of water beyond.  Should we trespass or continue on the trail, which now turned ninety degrees and carried on with no end in sight? We elected to stay on the trail and soon found a break in the underbrush that let us through to the shore.

It was an enjoyable walk and we eventually reached our destination, but on the way out of the campground the next day we saw signs for the real beach trail. I’m sure if we’d planned ahead and read the park brochure we could have saved ourselves a lot of wandering and wondering.

That’s also true in our writing. There are various ways to craft a novel. Some are well documented and named: the Snowflake Method, the Kiser Method, the Marshall Plan, the Hero’s Journey, Plotting, and Pantsing, to name a few.

Like our impulse to find the ocean, we can get a story idea and simply jump into the writing. We can begin at the top of the first page and let the words tumble out, or outline first, sorting scenes on recipe cards, sticky notes and spreadsheets, and doing detailed character sketches and hours of research.  No matter what route we choose, as long as we have a destination in mind and don’t give up before we reach it, we have a fair chance of getting there.

With a little forethought and planning, however, we can save ourselves a lot of unnecessary revision and backtracking, as well some anxiety. It’s no fun getting lost!

Do you follow a specific writing plan? Have you tried other methods?



Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

13 thoughts on “Know where you’re going, whether walking or writing

  1. I have wasted many precious hours of vacation by not having a plan, or by trying to cram too much in a day. My book feels a lot like that, unfocused. Too late for this one, but next book I’m going to try out some methods of outline or somesuch.

  2. Hey you…bet you really enjoyed your excursion :). I guess being a “Pantster”
    is what gets me in trouble–that and not concentrating on one book at a time.
    It’s like having a bunch of people (characters) sitting around a table grouching–“Me! Me! No, ME first!

    You’ve got pictures of course?– can’t wait to see them!

  3. I never do enough planning in my writing and often get myself stuck in a corner. I have tried outlines, cards, all kinds of stuff but just can’t seem to stick with a rigid framework. The characters always go and do what they want anyhow. I can see the value of outlining to save lots of time and rewriting down the road but I can’t seem to do it. Plus I enjoy the magic of writing and the thrill of discovery when something happens that I didn’t expect.

    Guess I like getting lost and taking the scenic route, meandering on back roads trying to find my way. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 😉

  4. Taking Alex Sokoloff’s story breakdown online class really really helped. I recommend it to anyone. But still sometimes wandering helps too, you get to see things you might never have noticed. I love your photos, Carol. They’re stunning and so inviting.

  5. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and asking such good questions, Carol. I am learning. And loved the pictures and description of your travel adventure – – I identify completely as my husband and I often adventure first and read signs later 🙂

  6. I’m toying with the idea of starting a new work rather than continuing the first one. I know I can fix it, but perhaps I’ve lost interest in it, at least for now. If I begin another novel, I’m not sure which method I’ll use, but I like planning and organization in all of the other pursuits of my life. For this reason, I will attempt to employ it in my writing. I agree with you, Carol. Getting lost is not fun. Blessings to you…

  7. I usually just write. The few times I’ve tried to make an outline just didn’t work for me. It seems when I get to know my characters well I don’t have much trouble figuring out the plot. Sometimes it just happens and I like to be surprised.

  8. Karen — I hadn’t thought about having a sense of adventure. I’m usually a pretty cautious person, although having my hubby with me probably made me a little braver. 😉

    Tricia — Some vacations are fun experienced as they come, but if there are specific sights to see, a plan is probably a good idea. In the case of novel writing when there is a goal in mind a little planning can’t hurt.

    Earlene (Elderfox) — I can write something new while revising something else, but I can’t work on two new stories simultaneously. I know there are writers who can have multiple books on the go at the same time, but I’m sure that only works if they can keep up the forward momentum.

    Catchats — A little meandering’s not a bad thing as long as you eventually reach your destination.

    Joylene — Knowing story structure is information essential for a well crafted novel. I haven’t taken Alex’s class, but I know her ‘Dark Salon’ blog has a lot of excellent resources.

  9. Brooke — Glad you enjoyed the photos. We’re RVers so don’t do much in the way of off-road exploring, but sightseeing is always fun.

    Carol Ann — My instinct is to encourage you to finish what you started, especially if you know what the problems are and how to fix them. When we abandon an unfinished work I think we undermine our self confidence as writers. Successful authors have to prove they can write and finish more than one book. So I’d say keep going until this one is finished, then start another one.

    Laura — I don’t do well with outlines either. A little pre-planning is the extent of my organizing. At least we both know what works best for us.

  10. The story of my life is about getting lost.
    Oh, sorry…we were talking about writing, weren’t we? ((sigh))
    There is a method to my madness, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. 😉
    I love those pics. Now I want to go camping!

    1. I think it all applies to writing *and* life. 🙂 We’ve been camping or RVing forever, but even though hubby is now retired, we don’t seem to get away as often as we’d like.

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