The murdering of perfectionism in planning your novel

hand giving the okay signalAre you the kind of writer who just starts writing and sees where it goes? Or, are you the kind of writer who plans every detail in an outline before writing the first draft?

I use to fall into the latter category. I didn’t want to tumble into the trap where the more spontaneous writers find themselves: writing hundreds of pages on something going nowhere. While the journey may be fun and the practice is never a waste, just writing without a plan didn’t make sense to me.

But I’ve also learned that over-planning a novel can be just as much a waste of time.

At the Quitter Conference I attended this past weekend, Jon Acuff reminded us of a concept from his book: 90% perfect and published always changes more lives than 100% and stuck in your head.

What I usually do is write a one sentence summary of each scene in my novel. Then I start to write. I move the sentences around as needed as I write, but surprisingly so far, that has been a minimal exercise. This method works well for National Novel Writing Month, which is almost a month away!

To me, the method of one sentence per scene is the best of both worlds. Try it.


Not “I will” but “I am”

I just received an email from Jon Acuff containing a schedule for the Quitter Conference in September and I’m excited to see that Jeff Goins is one of the speakers. A few months ago I read a book by Goins called You Are a Writer, So Start Acting Like One. In a section of this book called “Finding the Dream”, a friend challenged Goins by asking him what his dream was. Goins said, “. . . I suppose I hope to maybe be a writer . . . some day.”

Simple Psychology

His friend replied:

“Jeff, you don’t have to want to be a writer. You are a writer. You just need to write.

Goins claims, “Those words struck a chord in me. The next day, I started writing. Without excuse or exception, I began.”

Sounds ridiculous. So someone just tells themselves they are something, and he becomes that thing? Yes, that’s it. Whatever a person wants to be–a teacher, a doctor, a more empathetic individual–he just believes it and he becomes it?

Yes. It’s that simple.

This is the exact principle of a class I teach called Strategies for Success, created by The Pacific Institute. It ‘s not so much that person automatically becomes whatever he wants to be, but he is taking that first step in becoming it: preparing the subconscious to accept this new identity. If a person does not believe deep down that he or she is that thing, then it will never unfold. By saying “I am,” the journey begins at that moment. Not, “I will” because that is telling the subconscious that the journey has not yet begun–and never will until he says, “I am.”

Goins says in his book: “Believe you already are what you want to be. And then start acting like it.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like many people would scoff at this. “It’s too simple.” I say it’s the turning of the key in the ignition of a trip to becoming what an individual wants to be. It’s the building of a foundation. Without the turning of the key, without the foundation nothing can be completed.

So, when my friend, Ken, and I go to the Quitters Conference later this month, I’m eager to hear what Goins has to say.