Monday, February 16, 2015

Should I make an outline for my plot before writing my novel?

This is not me asking, nor is it me telling.

Writers often talk about the best way to write a novel. Some people say that having an outline is a bad idea. Take this quote by one of the best writer’s of our time:

“I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” - Chapter 5, page 163 of Stephen King’s On Writing.

King might be the best living writer, so I’m not going to say my ideas are better than his. What I will say is that there are fantastic books that were written with plots already outlined. Have you seen the Harry Potter notes that JK posted? I mean, using the two greatest modern examples may be a bit ridiculous to fit the arguments of the common wannabe writer, but they’re as good as they are for good reason.

What I want to say about my own writing is that I do thing that spontaneity in real creation and plotted outlines can be compatible if you’re a flexible writer. How many writers have said that they knew the ending of their book series before having even written them?

I find writing to be like a good road trip. You have dots marked on your map and a final destination, but that doesn’t mean you’ll go everywhere you thought or not make random stops along the way. I’ve written several books and plotted them out, however, I didn’t stop my characters when they decided to turn left or do something I hadn’t planned.

As long as the plotting you do is flexible, you can still find surprising twists. At a whim, I began my third chapter of The Unraveler with a random character that I hadn’t planned, and realized her story by the end of the next chapter. She inserted herself into the plot, and so I had to flex it, reshape it to include her. Allow random events to happen on your instinctual whims, and adjust the plot. The road trip of writing is getting from the beginning to the end, but it doesn’t have to go as planned. The important thing is to do what works best for you.

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