I was out in the garden picking frosted kale last Sunday morning. Yes, that’s the sort of rock and roll lifestyle I lead. Kale, grown in the garden, picked on a frosty February morning, for the guinea pigs’ breakfast. It takes about five minutes to lose the frostiness, in case you worry about giving my boys frozen food. Frozen veg should not be given to guinea pigs (or any other animal I can think of, save reindeer, maybe).
I only have one kale plant, because I didn’t sow many last year. There’s not much overwintering veg at all, in fact, because last spring I was planning to move house. I’m still planning to move house.
And now the seed catalogues are coming in, and I’m wondering whether to get new ones of my favourite things, like tomatoes, cucumber and carrots, and having deja vu because I’m sure I debated with myself whether to grow tomatoes last year (because of the house move). In the end I bought some small plants to grow on from the local garden centre. They were yummy.
The more I thought about this, the more I thought how like my writing it was. I am planning to write two more Princelings books this year. I seem to recall I had the same thing on my plan last year. Moving house does not really affect that plan, although the disruption and time spent packing and so on will eat into writing time. That’s no reason not to start.
What you want to do and when
The whole point of plans is to give you an idea of what you want to do and when. Things will happen that stop you carrying out some of them, and other things will happen that mean you do something else entirely.
That reminded me of my writing style for Princelings. In the first book I found that whatever I had planned, the characters did their own thing. By the fourth, which starred Hugo, the mischief maker, things just ran riot until he needed my help to get him out of the mess he’d got himself into.
He needed pruning, in fact. Or weeding. Or thinning, so that the rest of the story had room to grow. Things I do with my plants to help them thrive. Pruning cuts bushy plants back to help them grow stronger. Weeding removes the plants that shouldn’t be there to give the ones you want more space. Some weeds get replanted elsewhere, either because they are nice weeds like foxgloves or because I run out of dandelion plants because the guinea pigs love them.
Thinning is what you to do a row of seedlings – you planted the seeds deliberately, hoping some of them would grow, but they can’t all grow well—there’s too much competition.
Writing ideas are like that. They can’t all grow at once, crowded together. Some can be replanted—in the next book, perhaps. And these days, those need careful planning.
One of the plans I had was to reread all my Princelings series before I started on the next ones. It’s a good thing I did. I found several reminders of things I’d said in the past that I might have got wrong in the future—a throwaway line like ‘most castles work to a pattern; Fortune, White Horse and Hallam are virtually identical.’ Well, I reckon I knew that about the first two—well used in past books, and drawn as chapter or even cover illustrations. But I’d forgotten about Hallam, which so far has only been mentioned in passing. I’d have been very irritated with myself if I’d forgotten that.
The other thing about rereading the Princelings books… I had a plan to issue books 4, 5 and 6 as a second box set this year.
Well, shiver me timbers, matey. What is putting a set of books into a boxset going to require? Reading them (and editing where necessary!)
So there’s a plan that came happily forward, as I read the three books in sequence last week, and set up the box set to go live on 20th February. I could have put it out straight away, but Bravo Victor is book six, and Victor’s birthday is 20th February, so… Well, yes, I’m soft in the head, but who cares?
Choose your planning advice
There have been a great many posts about planning during January. Some are good, some are, frankly, scary. I rather liked the one about marketing. But just as with some gardening plans, the amount of detailed work in it put me off. I’d rather have my garden slightly more natural. Maybe I’d sell more books if I put more effort into the strategy for marketing them.
But I have a confession for you. I do not make a living from, and I’m not self-sufficient in my gardening. I do not make a living from my writing either. If I did, both would have to have far more detailed plans. I’d need to record crop growth, monitor how much water the various vegetables were getting, ruthlessly pull up three-quarters finished rows to plant the succession crop…
So while I make occasional forays into what keywords would sell more copies of a fantasy adventure series starring anthropomorphic guinea pigs inventing flying machines and having inter-castle rivalry, I usually give up and try to use ones that describe each story.
If you are a serious writer aiming to make serious money from your craft, read all the planning advice and act accordingly. But mainly, write your books.
I did manage to get one of last year’s plans successfully executed—republishing my first science fiction book, The Perihelix, and producing the second in the series. Curved Space to Corsair was published last month, and I’ve also got both books out now in paperback.
The Launch Giveaway is open until 12th February, so you’ve just got time to enter, if you’d like to. Pop over to my blog for all the details.
And thank you to all the people who have already bought it.
Have a very happy and productive 2019! I’ll be in the garden eating my veggies. Unless I move house.