I do not plot.
That felt like some sort of confession, like I were admitting a guilty secret. Ok so it’s not as bad as telling you that I have some dead bodies stashed under my patio… I don’t… honest. Moving along.
I have tried to plot several times and found one main stumbling block in using this method, the minute I plot it stifles my personal creative process. It feels like the fun has been drained out of the writing when you set specific targets to reach. I enjoy writing for the same reason that readers enjoy reading – the ride and the journey. The discovery of secrets, the unveiling of character traits and the arc they all follow. It’s as entertaining to learn these things as a writer, albeit that the payoff takes a little longer due to the time taken to physically write things out.
If you are a writer who plots vigorously, then I applaud you. You can do something I cannot. This blog post is for those of us who have tried and failed or who just can’t even get their heads around the idea of plotting.
What I have found - being very far into two different series of books – is that the further I go along, the more I feel I need to plot (just a little bit). It’s very easy to lose track when you’ve built a complex world full of rich characters who all have separate agenda’s, so for me, there comes a time when I have to make a bit of a plan.
It’s a lot like Russian dolls. You start with the big picture, you know where you are up to this point and you may have a general idea of where you’re going. Plotting the journey is simply a case of putting aside the big doll and picking out the various smaller dolls, painting them bright colours until you get to the very smallest of details. Once you have worked down to the small level all you have to do is start packing it all back together again.
For me, I start with a new document and a set of bullet points. I will share some of the actual notes that I had on my new book The Pirate by way of example:
· Have Holt explain his affection towards Rebecca
· Bring Imago back
· Walk through the jungle
Now these are very basic notes of things I wanted to achieve. I added to the list as the story progressed and crossed things off when items were completed to my satisfaction. It was not extensive plotting but it served a purpose. Now I’m up to book four of the series I’m finding my simplistic approach needs expansion and I have tried to do the full on chapter by chapter plot approach. You know what happened? I stopped writing it afterwards. Now I will get back to it – I need to get back to it – but plotting took all the fun out of it. It’s like writing out your own list of spoilers.
My advice to those of you with complex stories who aren’t plotters but you feel the need to do something to hold it altogether, try the bullet point list to start with and work your way up from there. I believe you can still call yourself a ‘pantser’ even if you do this, we’ll just keep it our little secret ok? Like those bodies…