To Plot, or Not to Plot…

…that is just one of the questions that all writers have to answer for themselves.

The issue is also one that can’t be answered by anyone but the writer. Every writer will answer the question to a different degree.

I’m a very structure oriented person; a plot is important to me. Even in life I prefer to have some sort of outline of what is expected of me and what I expect, so it comes as no surprise to me that my writing would use that as well.

I typically have a multi-stage process for my plots that starts as a general overview of what I want to accomplish in each novel and ends as a chapter-by-chapter outline with blurbs about what is going to happen at each step.

Even in the most detailed approach, however, there has to be room for your characters to breath, change things about themselves and the path that they are on and the path that your story is on.

I liken my writing approach to those hurricane predictions you see on TV every year. Nearest to the storm, the path is small; as it moves away the possibilities broaden but there is still the wider path.

The importance of maintaining some bit of flexibility is important because you don’t want to tie your characters down and force them to do things they wouldn’t.

In my writing, this has resulted in some strange story threads that, at first, confused me. Now, however, looking back I realize that the flexibility that I allowed my characters was essential to moving the story along.

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5 comments on “To Plot, or Not to Plot…

  1. I only ever plot when I’m stuck at some point in the story, but I agree that the characters should always have some breathing room; they often take a mind of their own and it’d be difficult to get them to do what you want.

  2. Joshua – we share a very similar writing process, but from what I’ve seen, we ae the exception rather than the norm, at least when in comes to fantasy writers. I think it’s really funny, actually, because the plotters I know, like us, tend to have the most flexible outlook when it comes to what process is best. Most plotters I know say “writers should go with what works best for them” while many pantsers I know suggest that plotting is just wrong: “it’s too linear – it’s too rigid – it’s not creative enough – it’s not organic,” all common complaints I hear from the other side, rather than accepting that different methods just happen to be appropriate for different people. I hope some day people will be more open-minded about these things and see that plotters can create just as beautiful, creative and fluid work as pantsers..

  3. Great post, Joshua, thanks for sharing your process with us. I`m like you, but a little less so. I like to know where I`m going, but I only write maybe a sentence for each chapter to remind me, then a couple words for each plot point (as simple as whose POV it will be from). I think the key for most of us is that any planning is flexible. If the characters can come up with something better than I did, more power to them!

  4. Pingback: Plot versus Character « M. Q. Allen

  5. Pingback: How about a new story? It only stand to reason « Maria Grace

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