Planning is good, but…

For those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you know that this past weekend was my daughter’s birthday party. When asked what type of party she wanted, she told me she would like a Disney Princess Mulan theme.


Does anyone have any idea how hard it is to find Mulan themed party supplies?


It’s tough. After a lot of deliberation, hubby and I decide to go with a “Chinese” themed party. My cousin managed to find the last Mulan costume in existence on ebay and through some miracle it actually arrived on time. We bought paper Chinese lanterns, planned a Chinese themed menu, and sketched out Chinese themed games for the kids once they arrived. We even managed to find a bakery that would make us a Mulan cake. All in all, we felt we were ready for the 20 kids and adults who were to descend on our house on Sunday afternoon.

paper lanterns

Paper lanterns like these were used to decorate our house for the party...



Or so we thought.


Between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, three families RSVP’d to the invitations adding 10 more people to our list. Yikes. Suddenly I didn’t have enough supplies for the games, enough goodie bags for the kiddos, or enough food for the guests. All of the plans I had laid out were for nothing. Okay, so they weren’t for NOTHING, but I had to adjust, and I had to do it fast.


As a chronic planner, this was hard for me, but we managed.


We got cookies and ice cream to go with the cake that served only 15 people. We ran down to the local Chinese resturant and ordered some chow mein and fried rice to bulk up our menu. I ditched the craft idea and bought a box of cheap water guns from Walmart for $0.50 each and let the kids run around the yard. Okay, so that last one wasn’t exactly a Chinese theme, but the kids had a blast and I don’t think many people noticed. 🙂


So what does this have to do with writing? A lot, actually. It’s always good to plan ahead. Those of you who know me know I’m a big advocate of charts and spreadsheets and goals. Having direction and keeping track of your progress is important. At the end of the day, however, you need to be flexible. Characters in your story don’t behave. Publishers close submissions. Agents take longer than expected to get back to you. Edits are more dificult and take more time than you thought. Things don’t always turn out the way you planned them…and that’s okay. Sometimes forcing yourself to change and adapt leads you in a new, unexpected direction. And who knows? Things may even work out better than you planned.


So I want to hear from all of you. Tell me about a time when things didn’t work out exactly the way you planned them. How did it make you feel? How did you adapt? What was the result?

7 Responses to “Planning is good, but…”
  1. I used to consider myself a planner, but now I consider myself armed and ready for whatever happens next! lol For instance, whenever we go on vacation I read and study for months ahead of time. I even memorize maps, but when the time comes to actually have feet on the ground I take all that info and run with it, whatever the day may bring.

    My husband says I’m the only person he’s ever known who prepares for spontaneity!

    I actually do the same thing with my writing. I stew an idea, research, think about my characters’ GMC…but then my pen hits the page and I’m off to wherever the characters might lead me:)

    I’m glad your party turned out well. I’ve had several ginormous parties for my twins so I can sympathize with the difficulties caused by last minute RSVPs!!

  2. Sandi says:

    LOL I plan for vacations too! Plan for every possible outcome. I love planning. I used to write by the seat of my pants, but then when my plots made no sense, I started outlining and plotting. It’s worked fabulously well. I know exactly where my stories go, how I’m getting there–except when my characters rebel and do their own thing. Not a problem. Re-plot, re-outline, continue. 🙂 It makes me happy for the moment.

  3. Rob Charron says:

    Hi 🙂
    That is very true that life happens despite the planning we make.
    I am sure your daughter had a wonderful time and the party sounds terrific.
    I planned out my story but after 3 pages my MC had other ideas which took it into new and better plot!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Love from Northern Ontario

  4. Suzanne Rock says:

    Hi Barbara! funny you should mention vacations. Normally we plan out our vacations way in advance. This year we are determined to be spontaneous. We booked our trip to Vegas only 3 weeks in advance as opposed to 18 months, and we didn’t purchase any shows or tours or anything. Although we ARE bringing an internet connection so we can get resturant listings and maps and such. Guess old habbits die hard. LOL.

  5. Suzanne Rock says:

    Hi Sandi! You sound like me. I like to write “by the seat of my pants” but find that often my stories wander with no direction. Once I started doing very general outlines, then things began to fall into place. 🙂

  6. Suzanne Rock says:

    Hi Rob! thanks for stopping by! My daughter did have a wonderful time. Thanks. Don’t you love it when your characters lead you into something better than you had planned? That happened to me on my current WIP. It’s causing me to go back and do a lot of rewriting, but the story is definately stronger for it. Thaks for sharing!

  7. Grace Conley says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    On the topic of planning….and then dealing when plans go awry: the topic that immediately springs to mind is child-proofing a house.

    My husband and I researched thoroughly, bought all the books, and bought all the products.

    We’ve learning that no matter the stage, a clever small child will circumvent their parents every time.

    Glad the Mulan party turned out fun — it sounds very cute!

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