Why I love to plot


I once showed the lovely Kathleen Peacock a binder of mine – filled with notes, pictures, timelines and character maps for a story I have brewing. I think she was somewhat taken aback by it. She even blogged about it.

I can’t really imagine how one would create a novel without outlining, plotting and planning. Writing is wonderful, and I love to do it. But writing 80,000 words or so is hard. It requires a discipline that doesn’t come naturally to me. So I guess I just want to be efficient about it.

(Now that I’ve said the word “efficient” you probably think I’m going to bore you with some kind of soulless dissertation, am I right?)

(Hardly.)

When I plot, I am not shackled to it – I leave gaps where I haven’t figured things out yet. Sometimes I write through those gaps, winging it for small periods of time. Sometimes I look at the map I’ve made myself, and voluntarily depart for a while into the wilds. But a lot of the time, I confess that I write what I planned to write. Once my first draft is done and I begin the edit process, I refer back to my outline often. Editing a whole novel is a bit like trying to wrap your arms around an elephant, and it pays to have the 1,000 foot view of things close at hand.

I’ve read a lot of blog postings by people who are clearly uncomfortable with the idea of plotting, and to them I say:

Plotting is vacationing in your own head. It is sculpting with big, sharp tools that reveal wonderful shapes right before your eyes. It is building connections and links and layers and layers and layers of meaning that reinforce and strengthen your story until you can strike it and hear harmonics vibrate through its structure. It is equal parts indulgent stream of consciousness and incisive problem-solving. It is creativity that uses your whole brain and it is joyful.

That is all.

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3 thoughts on “Why I love to plot

  1. Hear, hear! I agree. I love plotting too. I have to plot! It’s admirable how some can write with no idea where the story is going until the words show up. I like spending time with my characters and story before I take the plunge though. It makes the writing process go along much easier, too!

    • Thanks for your note Laura! I think the key to it all is balance – plot your head off and then don’t be a slave to it, if you come up with something wonderful as you write. I’m not sure why people feel it has to be one camp or the other! Do you have binders full of notes too? How do you capture your plot?

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