Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Plot or not to Plot, that is the question.


What and how to start and where are you going? These are questions that every writer faces and if you are new to the art of writing a novel—lets face it they are pretty big hurdles. There are different ways to approach writing a book and I have loosely grouped them into two categories just for the sake of convenience:

  1. Write as it comes: This is where you let your characters write the book, they lead you and you write scenes at will, ultimately linking them all together.
  2. Outline the book: You know where you are going, who is going to be there and how the story progresses.

I have tried the first way, I just write a scene and I figure my characters will know what is going to happen. You know what, they don’t. Oh, they’ll show me a scene now and then which I add, but for the most part my characters only have life if I know where they are going. I’ll know it is the wrong route when I write the scene and nothing flows. I ENVY those writers that can write letting the characters write the story. They have joy in their writing but I have noticed when they hit the dark spots (those days of writing drought) it is deeper than any obsidian pit I have ever observed. (OK, a part of me is somewhat hoping that after some experience I will be able to relax enough to let my characters take over...)

Now I am trying the other way—I am plotting, making a rough outline, getting a direction and creating characters that will have to populate my world. Is it going to work? I don’t know. I will tell you as I go along. I have written short stories for the last few years and this is my first attempt at really getting a manuscript done for a book. Am I scared, heck yeah I am. Am I confused-that’s a state of being for me at this point. (But, like the little engine that could....)

What do you do when you approach writing a book? What kind of outline do you go for? How does it apply for romance? Fantasy? Any genre?

3 comments:

Deborah Matthews said...

To hear people talk about charts and index cards and such gives me a headache. I am NOT a plotter. Until I sold my first book and wanted to sell on proposal, I didn't even write my synopsis until the book was finished.

Now, I try to figure out the GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) for the hero and heroine, but I never know how they're going to get from A to Z.

THE DEVIL AND THE DUCHESS was my fourth book and I sold it on proposal. Now, keep in mind I'd been working with this editor. I didn't know how it ended, just that they were married, so I used the old standby, "They lived happily ever after."

Carla Swafford said...

Mary, the most important thing to remember is to do it your way. (Sounds like a commercial. LOL!) Whatever helps you get the words on paper that's the best way.

I never do a outline, but usually when I finish a scene and have to go to work or bed, I'll write a couple sentences to remind me what I already decided where the story will go next. Sometimes I'll use it and sometimes I don't.

Usually I have a rough idea of where I want to end up in the story but it often changes. Being a contest junkie, I have to write those #*@% synopses and that means I tell the ending. I can promise you after I finish the book that part of the synopsis is thrown out often.

Once I tried writing scenes as they come to me even if not in order. I finished a book in six months (that's quick for me), but I still worry about holes in that one.

It's all try and error.

doglady said...

My novel started out as a writing exercise that took on a life of its own. I had started another novel and hit a snag and one of my critique partners suggested an exercise, Not only did it grow into the novel I am trying to finish, it also helped me to see what I needed to do next in the novel I had started. I know the general story arc of my novel, but I have not plotted the whole thing out. Like Carla, I do make notes about what might happen next. Do what works for you, that is the important thing, I think.