Figuring out the plot

by Nikki

Question: When starting to write your story/novel, should you already have the entire story (including the ending and any plot twists) planned out before you begin writing, or should you just go with the flow and go through the changes with your character?

Answer:> Writers generally fall into two camps: plotters (who plan) and pantsers (who fly by the seat of their pants). Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages.

If you take a pantser approach and just start writing with no forethought, the advantage is that it can be very spontaneous and liberating. You can just let your imagination run wild.

The disadvantages are...

1) When you get stuck or run out of steam (which almost always happens in act 2) you are really stuck. You have no idea where to go with your story.

2) You often end of with a draft that is full of holes, inconsistencies, and plot problems. You have to do a lot of revision to make a good second draft.

A plotter approach, on the other hand, gives you a solid outline so you always know where the story is headed next. You fix most of your plot problems in the planning stage, so you have far less to fix in the revision stage.

The disadvantages are...

1. Plotting takes some of the spontaneity out of the writing process.

2. Plotters sometimes get so involved in the planning that years go by before they actually start writing.

Very few writers are purely one or the other. Most start with at least some kind of outline, even if it is just a single paragraph. And most want to leave some room for spontaneity during the writing process.

The trick is to keep yourself excited and motivated. Don't do so much planning that you lose all spontaneity, and don't do so little that you get stuck.

You are also free to switch back and forth. Write some, and when you get stuck do some planning. When the planning starts to get dull, switch to writing, etc.

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