Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Plotting woes

I hate plotting. Plotting is completely counter-productive to the whole idea of writing in my opinion. There are two things that I love about writing:

- The genesis of an idea or story, when it pops up in your head and you spend time thinking about it and mulling it over. It's like having a ball in your mind, and you throw it about and see what it's like, and have it collide with other balls to see what happens when they come together. Slowly but surely it changes from a vague idea into something more tangible, which you can take away and do something with.

- The actual act of writing, in particular the moment when everything comes alive. The characters stop being a list of attributes and become actual people inside your head, able to think and talk for themselves. This can get annoying if they then decide they don't want to do what you had in mind, or if they start talking back to you (which has happened more times than I'd like), but it also means that your story's really taken off, and there's no real way to describe that feeling.

Plotting sits in the middle of this, and serves as a giant stalling block for me. I'm very much a seat-of-my-pants writer; I don't like to think things over too much, I prefer to just start writing it and see what happens. Having to work out the details of what's going to happen isn't one of my strong suits, and usually ends up with me getting frustrated at my lack of progress and putting the whole thing off. Plotting is a necessary evil however, as without it you can get lost on your way from point A to point B, and veer off the course spectacularly, or just run out of road altogether. Plus you need to have some idea of what you're doing, so you don't get to a certain point and then have to stop while you figure out what exactly's going to happen.

This is what happened with Running To Stand Still. I had a pretty good plan of what was going to happen in the beginning, and hoped that once I'd run out of that the story would have built up enough steam that it could just keep going. This worked well enough for the month of NaNo, where it's generally not a good idea to overplan anyway, but by the end of the month I was running out of things to write with no real idea of how to get from where I was to the next big event. This has actually left me stalled for quite a while, and it's only lately that the road ahead of me has come back into view. I've got a plan of what I'm doing for the rest of the novel, which isn't massively detailed so I can still wing it for a certain amount; I don't have chapter summaries for instance, partly because I don't write in chapters. I just need to flesh out a few details before I get back to the really fun stuff. I had worried that after such a long gap I wouldn't be able to get back into this story, but now I'm getting it all planned out ahead of me I can't wait to get back into it.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say I'm quite a fan of detailed plotting, and found it a help on my first book. But now I'm into number 2 and it doesn't seem quite as important. If you know where the story begins, and where it ends, and have a handful of exciting things to throw into the middle, I think you're about done.

    Stephen King thinks outling is a waste of time. Lots of authors do. So don't sweat the detail too much. Sure, if you get stuck at a specific point, block it out completely so you fan fix it, but otherwise let the story flow.

    No doubt I'll have changed my mind in a month when my novel grinds to a halt in chapter 20 due to lack of a detailed chapter breakdown!