October 16, 2018 at 5:17 pm #53324
I’ve been wondering about a question regarding plotting. Generally, I start a story with a basic idea of where it needs to go, and then ‘discover’ how it happens as I write, without having pre-planned much of it. I’ve heard of many authors (some published) who write this way.
However, I wanted to know if it really is the best way. It makes a lot of parts of writing more difficult (like tieing a theme into it, having a cohesive train of thought, etc). In a desire to write with excellence, I don’t want to sacrifice quality for convenience. Yet at the same time (and despite the extra challenges) writing as I do can be done successfully, and I wonder if it is my “style” or strengths that lend themselves to ‘discovery’ over planning.
So I guess my questions are: is it good to write by discovery instead of plotting? And how much planning work to I need to do beforehand to write well?
Feel free to tag whoever you think might help (I’m still relatively new to the forum and don’t know you all yet). Thank you for taking the time to help me!
Always remember you're unique...
...Just like everyone elseOctober 16, 2018 at 5:31 pm #53334
@kb-writer hey! Really good question. 🙂
Is writing by discovery good? I think it depends entirely on the kind of writer that you are. Some people just get bored writing if they have a long, thorough outline, and they enjoy coming up with the story as they go. But whether you come up with the story as you go or if you outline the entire thing, you’re still going to have to “discover” your theme and plot and character arcs at some point. If you’re writing by discovery, you’ll probably figure those things out as you go, and have to go back and refine them later. If you outline before writing, you’ll be doing most of the discovering at that time.
Regarding how much planning you need to do to write well, that also depends on how you write best. Some people can write great first drafts by just knowing the major turning points in a story, while others need a scene-by-scene play of everything that happens.
If you do end up outlining, I’d suggest at least having a theme and a climax planned, so you can properly build the story based off of those elements. Otherwise, just try experimenting around and figuring out what works best for you.
Hope that helps 🙂
"Beauty will save the world." - DostoevskyOctober 16, 2018 at 5:33 pm #53335October 16, 2018 at 5:51 pm #53336
@kb-writer I love that you asked this question! It’s actually something I really love talking about.
Every writer has a different style. One style is not better than another in and of itself, but there is a style that is best for the specific author.
For example: if I plot out every little detail of my books, I get bored and it’s harder for me to finish them. So instead, I just have a very loose outline (to make sure my story fits into the three act plot structure, so editing isn’t too much of a pain) and then just roll with that. I like to have a lot of freedom with my first drafts, but not total freedom either, because otherwise I’d go off the rails. 😛
I’ve tried a lot of different writing methods, and I’m really glad that I have, because it means that I’ve been able to hone my personal process to the perfect fit for me. And I encourage all writers to do the same too. Maybe try plotting loosely for one book. Try hardcore outlining. Don’t plot at all. See what works best for you and your creative style. 😉
As Audrey pointed out, everyone does the ‘discovery as they go’ at some point in writing a novel. Some people do it before the first draft. Some people do it during. Neither method is inherently wrong, but each one works better for different individuals; sometimes it can even depend on the novel itself as to whether it’ll work better with less or more of an outline.October 16, 2018 at 9:32 pm #53368R.M. Archer@r-m-archer
I was going to suggest trying various levels of planning vs. discovery-writing, but @jane-maree beat me to it. Like she and @morreafirebird said, what works is different for every author and you have to figure out what method works for you. And it also may vary from story to story, so if you find something that works for WIP 1 but is really not working for WIP 2, try something different with WIP 2 and see if that helps. 🙂
Fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi author. Mythology nerd. ENFP. Singer.October 17, 2018 at 10:31 am #53472Maddie Morrow@maddiejay
My thoughts are, there is no right or better way to do it. I know multi-published authors who plot out every single detail, and I know equally successful published authors who discover write everything. My advice is, if it works for you, stick with it. If it’s not working, tweak it.
For me, I can’t do the all or nothing. If I sit and plot out every minor detail I end up bored stupid and never write the story. If I completely discovery write, I get stuck about 1/3 the way through and never finish the story. So I start out with a 2-3 page outline. I write down all the main things I know will happen in the story, in rough chronological order. I can change it later. Any major points about characters or setting that I’ve dreamt up while thinking about this story, I write those down. Then I just write. Everything that happens between my major points is discovery written, but I have that outline to keep me on track and not get stuck, because I always know the next goal I’m working toward.October 17, 2018 at 11:48 am #53491Ariel Ashira@ashira
@kb-writer I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do it. Just find out what works best for you. Personally, I plan out everything I can before I rough draft, so that I know what is going to happen and I spare myself as much editing as possible. But I would just try various ways and see what works best for you.
"No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how hard you fall, you are never out of the fight."October 17, 2018 at 3:03 pm #53547Linyang Zhang@devastate-lasting
I don’t think there is a right or wrong way. What I do is generally have a basic outline of the plot and scenes I want to cover, and then within each scene just have the characters do what they want. It’s rather fun that way.
"I set a melody upon the scenery I saw outside my window;
It's beginning in my spacy world."
- TKOctober 17, 2018 at 7:32 pm #53640
Thank you all so much for the great ideas and encouragement. It’s really nice to know I’m not the only one who sits down with very little and starts writing.
If you don’t mind (because I’m curious), would you like to share your favorite method of plotting (or not-plotting/discovery, though due to what a lot of you have said I’m reluctant to call my general way “discovery”)?
Always remember you're unique...
...Just like everyone elseOctober 17, 2018 at 7:38 pm #53642October 17, 2018 at 7:47 pm #53644
Excellent blog post! That makes plotting seem really manageable (I’ve always been somewhat intimidated by it). Thanks so much!
Always remember you're unique...
...Just like everyone elseOctober 17, 2018 at 8:04 pm #53645October 18, 2018 at 3:50 pm #53768R.M. Archer@r-m-archer
@kb-writer I wrote out a whole response and then the forum/my computer glitched and took me to Jane’s site instead of submitting the comment. Here goes an attempt at rewriting it.
I don’t have a consistent plotting method. It greatly varies by project. With my current editing project, I wrote a short (one or two sentence) summary of each scene within each chapter, which is the most detailed my outlines have ever gotten.
My current project is a trilogy, and plotting has been different for every book in it, even though they follow the same plot (it’s one story told from three vastly different POVs). I started by planning the main plot points of the trilogy’s arc, to provide a framework for the rest of the events in the books. With the first book, that was all I had to do and I was able to just write and fill in the spaces between plot points without a problem. In book two, I tried doing the same thing and it totally hasn’t worked; I’ve had to stop frequently to reevaluate where I am and where I need to be so I can plot out how I need to move forward. I’m starting book three for NaNoWriMo, and I’ve already have outlines of certain parts in the book because I know I won’t be able to keep things interesting if I don’t plan it out beforehand.
I generally start with a minimum of main plot points so I can add to it if I need to but I don’t immediately lock myself into a detailed plan, but beyond that there’s no “right” answer for me. I plot as much or as little as the story requires.
Fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi author. Mythology nerd. ENFP. Singer.October 20, 2018 at 7:58 pm #54034
Glitching computers are a real nuisance.
Thank’s so much for your answer. That sounds pretty similar to how I do things as well.
Always remember you're unique...
...Just like everyone elseOctober 27, 2018 at 2:26 pm #55604
@kb-writer sorry I’m a bit late to this! I’ve tried a lot of different ways of plotting, but the one that’s worked for my past two novels went like this:
1) put down all my ideas in a notebook and just ramble about what I want the story to be about. Through that, I come up with a tangible theme.
2) I create characters and write out the arcs for them based on the theme I figured out earlier
3) I figure out the plot points that will affect the characters’ arcs and outline those based off the ideas I came up with back at step 1.
4) Scene by scene outline, filling in the blanks between the plot points. This often takes me the longest, and I may go back and revise the characters and arcs during this step. I also do a little bit of worldbuilding
5) Make the outline easy to read and understand, put it in Scrivener, and write!
I hope that helps! 😀
"Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky
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