Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sucking the Life out of Your Story

The debate continues - to plot or not to plot. It is easy to see every writer will write in a different method. But how can you determine what's best for you?

Trial and error? Intuition? Force yourself into following a proven method (proven by another writer)?

'How to Write' books are abundant and sometimes confusing for the new writer. How can one determine the climactic scene out of thin air? How can you determine who your character is without getting to know them? How can you write a story without knowing such things at all?

During my journey, I continue to try to discover the best method for my writing.

1) No Plot - Produced many short stories and two published novellas. All of these began with a glimmer of an idea and a rough draft from beginning to end. The revision/editing process polished the writing, discovered missing scenes, and built on a rough foundation.

2) Plot - Produced three novels - incomplete. First novel, complete with character sketches, a collection of scenes, and some written work, sits in a box. Second novel, produced during Nano, a collection of scene drafts, character interviews, plot outlines, and anything else you can think of, sits in a folder waiting for completion. Third novel, beginning and end sketched out, character sketches, tarot profiles, and more, has recently been put to sleep in a folder.

By plotting, I sucked the life out of these stories and made them boring and confusing to complete. The stories kept changing as I went, the characters didn't act like they were supposed to, and the ending was a far off sign post. Now, I'm aware plotting is adjustable, but I found by know all this information it stunted the growth of my novel.

My recent conclusion - plotting may be for professionals. The reason I say this is I can look back at my published work and see structure, but this wasn't accomplished on purpose. It just happened. I can see some missing structure in my unpublished short stories, but this can be fixed and built upon the rough form which is there.

I read recently (not sure the location) a writer who revealed she didn't plot in the beginning of her career, but after her first few novels she tried it and it worked. I've heard over and over again if you return to your how-to books later in your career they make more sense. So, wouldn't it make sense to say plotting is for the experienced writer? (Now I know some writers may be born plotters.)

So, my main point here is if you are a beginning writer and you struggle with your work, try just writing. If you've sketched out your characters, plotted out your scenes, and freeze when you start the first draft of your story, stick it away somewhere and start a story from scratch, working from beginning to end and see what you might discover.

(On a side note: A story bible is a helpful tool for most writers not plotting. Keep jots on what's happening, who your characters are, scenes you think of, and needed corrections discovered as you go.)

The main thing is to start with the first word and don't stop writing until you reach the end.

Caution: This has been my method for short stories and novellas. I'm about to begin a new novel using this method, but cannot conclude for sure if it is doable. My worry is the story will be too long to discover through this method. But after trying plotting with no results, what do I have to lose?

Good luck in your writing!

:) After writing up this post Monday Morning, I discovered later in the day, Roni Loren's blog touched upon the same subject - the writing process. For more on the topic visit her blog - Fiction Groupie.


Cherie Reich said...

Good luck with your novel!

Different writers have different paths to writing. For me, plotting works. Without a plot, I just stop writing after a while. Although I think I'm a natural plotter because I don't feel experienced yet. Hehe!

Cher Green said...


Thanks. I'll probably need it. Still brainstorming on it at the moment.

Joylene said...

Excellent points, Cher. You're so right. We get all bent out of shape trying to follow what every other writer does, and in the end often drive ourselves crazy. Yes, find out what works best for you and trust your instincts. It's like raising a child and listening to the advice all your friends have to offer. Everything child and every story is different.

Terry W. Ervin II said...

Cher, I think there is an innate characteristic for a solid story, however it comes into being. Some folks are just better at structuring in their mind before writing, while others jot notes to keep on track. I'm a balance of those two. I have notes (a few pages in a spiral notebook, with ideas jotted as I go) but not a specific chapter by chapter, scene by scene plotter.

Whatever works. If there were a magic forumula for successful writing...it'd have been discovered by now...Okay, maybe it has but hasn't been shared ;)

Cher Green said...

Joylene, Insane is more like it, lol. Thanks for stopping by. Always great to hear from you.

Cher Green said...

Terry, Wonderful comment.

The magic formula, we probably all have that, but it's something that has to be discovered. And since it varies for each of us, it's hard to share.

Idea jotting, that is definitely part of my process, :) now to discover the rest.

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