Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The joys of flying by the seat of your pants when writing

I have tried and tried and tried, but plot, I cannot. I guess it's partly due to the fact that my beast of a novel refuses to be limited to the constraints of a formal plot outline.

I know this because I tried to create a plot outline before I started to write the book. After about two pages of it with no end in sight, I threw my hands into the air and put the planning aside. I guess that makes it sound like I'm doing a trilogy. If you thought that, you're not far wrong. I suspect that this will be a series of four books though. But..

The plotting I did was for the first book only. The thing about it that it is a great story that has subdivisions. Some things happen at the same time, some don't. Some things trigger events in the other story-lines. So it turned out that just writing the damn book is easier that trying to plot it out. I do make an effort to keep major plot points in mind so that I don't end up wandering around, but those points are fluid. They can change whenever something huge happens as the story progresses. But unless that event is massive, the points don't change.

Writing like this does have its disadvantages. The big one is that I block. A lot. For long periods of time. Sure I have the big plot points to write towards, but sometimes I draw a complete blank when it comes to writing the small stuff that happens in between.

Then there's my other personal favourite: I'm happily writing along when I get this sudden flash of inspiration. Usually it's like a video clip that's looping through my mind. Sometimes it's a phrase, word or sentence that keeps echoing. Wonderful? Ugh... not if it's not from the current book.

Blame my paranoia for this, but I rarely write any ideas down, since it's difficult to keep track of my notes. So I can't just write down and describe the mental image or words. No. My mind and creativity gets snarled up in trying to figure out how the story gets to that point in the distant future. Sometimes it takes me weeks to work things out well enough for me to get back to writing. 

Am I complaining? Well... not really. Those flashes of inspiration, for all of their tendencies to come at bad times, really are brilliant. I'm talking about gasp for your breath and grab onto something solid brilliant. These are the kind of things I would never have been able to create if I thought about it. My subconscious just takes in everything - my characters, my story, the circumstances, events etc. - and makes a huge leap to a future point in the natural progression of the story.

I can't really give examples, since these are huge spoilers. Spoilers of the scope that if I was reading the book and my friend mentioned this, I'd maim his or her reading experience of another book as revenge. (I hate people telling me what happens after the point where I'm reading) But let me just say that someone is going to get the mother of harsh wake-up calls while someone else is going to get a lot worse before he gets better. I just hope I can pull it off before the readers absolutely hate the latter person.

I'm curious about plotters though. How do you work out your plots? What are the best and worst parts of plotting?

And the other pantsers, what are your writing experiences like?

I'm dying to find out about other people's writing experiences...


  1. Don't feel too bad. I almost always write "untethered" by well-developed plots or other constraints. And the times when I've felt the best "electricity" is at those points when I'm truly wading into uncharted territory. My advice is just to write and let your story take you where it needs to go. But this is coming from a self-proclaimed pantster, so beware my advice ;)

  2. True. I also love when the unexpected happens in the story, because the one thing I would hate to write is a predictable story.


Thanks for commenting! I love to read what you think.

Feel free to ignore the check-box saying "Prove you're not a robot." My word verification is off, but I moderate comments to posts older than two weeks.