Pitfalls for Writers – 5) The Hijack

Pitfalls for Writers, an occasional series; 5) – The Hijack

I think that I will frame this in the form of a question.

But before we get to ‘this’ question, which is the one that I really want to ask, I have a preliminary question: Are you a Planner or a Pantser?

Planners, of course, plan their stories in detail; the characters, the plot, the backstories, etcetera. Some may just have a rough map of the journey, but it is a map nonetheless; it shows the route from the very beginning of the first chapter, all the way through to the end.


Others will have minutely detailed plans of the whole story:

They will work out full details of each character, complete with likes and dislikes, quirks, friends, family, hobbies and anything else that you might care to want to know.

They will locate pictures of every location that the story references, with any relevant information that might be needed. Perhaps they will visit these locations (if possible) and take notes and photos, otherwise they might spend ages scanning YouTube videos.

There will be timetables ensuring that the continuity of the story is flawless.

They will research all historical/geographical/economic/etcetera details in advance, and then have them, neatly tabulated, close at hand.

Then there are the Pantsers.

Just like myself, I freely admit. We tend to sit down in front of a blank page and then start with a sort of ‘Ooh, that’s a good opening line. I wonder what will happen next? I did have an idea a few weeks ago that might fit in with that. Now, I wonder where I wrote that down?’ approach.

Personally, I do have, at the very least, a vague idea of where the story is going, and sometimes I even have the ending already written down (somewhere!), although it is subject to change as the story grows. Rarely do I plan in much more detail than that.

And then occasionally, as all writers know, a character might hijack the plot by refusing to do what I had intended them to do, and consequently to alter the whole storyline. But is that just us Pantsers?

So, ‘this’ question, then, is for the Planners:

Do you occasionally find that, as you are writing, you suddenly get the idea for a plot twist, or a really interesting character who fits into the story so well, and this despite your detailed plans, that you feel you have to alter your plan to include it? Even if you have spent three months on said plan and consider it inviolable?

Pitfalls for Writers 3

Pitfalls for Writers, an occasional series; part 3) Spellcheck and Distractions



There are particular problems with the English language, when it comes to muddling words up, since we seem to be blessed (or otherwise) with a large number of groups of similar words. Within each group, they’re pronounced the same, although their meaning and spelling are different.

Did you see what I did there?

You might alter something, but then leave it on an altar.

Then there are, for example, groyne and groin; although in the US, groyne is spelled groin. Do you know which language your spellcheck uses? The default on my computer is US English, so I had to manually alter it to UK English, since I live in UK.

(This is referring to groyne / groin as in a breakwater, not an anatomical term)

Of course, if I was writing a piece to be published in the US, I would then need to alter many of the spellings to US usage.

Are you still with me?

Naturally, as writers, we should all understand the difference between ‘they’re, their and there’, but when using spellcheck it is perhaps easy, or perhaps lazy, to get them muddled up.

There. That’s what I did.

There is no substitute for a dictionary and a good knowledge of grammar.



Oh, I’m so easily distracted. When I am spending a day writing, be it on a novel or short story or on a piece for my blog, I turn to the internet to look something up and before I know it, I’m reading something else, which then encourages me to follow a thread somewhere to something I spotted that looks awfully interesting and then…

Obviously, if there is cricket going on, then that is understandable. Everybody needs to keep up with the score, don’t they? But it is just as likely to be an unrelated distraction.

I do understand the importance of a timetable, and I admit that I am hopeless at following my own advice, here. Occasionally I will scrawl down a note in my diary for the day that reads something along the lines of ‘Breakfast, then 9 am writing. 12 noon emails and lunch. 1 pm – 4 pm writing.’

When I do manage to have a working day that is disciplined, I invariably find that I get a lot more done. And one of the most important things, for me, is not to look at emails before lunchtime. As soon as I do, I’m no longer thinking about writing, but answering these various emails, and whatever it is they’re about.

Ooh, hang on, I need to go and check the cricket. No, no, it’s important. I’ll be back in a moment…