Sunday, January 25, 2015

To Plot or Not by Roseanne Dowell

That is the question.
Or is it?
I've been asked many times if I plot my books. The answer is a resounding NO! It doesn't work for me. I'm not saying it's wrong. Many writers and hat works for them. Just like everything else in writing, there's no hard and fast rule. Many authors can't write if they don't plot. 
At one of our local chapter meetings of RWA, the speaker talked about plotting  and even writing a synopsis before the book was written. That concept never entered my mind. How can you write a synopsis before the book is written? She suggested if we'd never done that to try it. I figured what the heck,  why not give it a try.
So I did.
I had an idea for a story taking shape in my mind. As usual, I knew the beginning and end. What happened in the middle? I didn't have a clue. Oh, I had a few ideas. I knew there was a secret about my heroine’s birth, and that she’d find a dead body But I had no idea who he was (yes, I knew
it was a male) or why he was killed. 
So I tried plotting. I came up with a few ideas about his identity and even about who murdered him and even why.
I started to outline , and I came up with a pretty good story line. Then, I started writing. For a while, it flowed pretty well. Once my heroine discovered the body, I was stuck. Something didn't feel right. I wasn't sure what it was, but  I couldn't move on. My heroine wouldn't let me. No matter how I tried to write the next conflict, the words wouldn't come.
I was totally blocked. The story sat for the better part of the year without me adding even one word. Every time I opened it, I read it, made a few changes like I always did when opening my story,  and then I came to the part where I was stumped.
I stared at the computer, sometimes for hours, trying to come up with something, anything –even if it was garbage – just to get me past that hump. Nothing worked
So I’d move on to something else. I revised several other stories that I’d written a long time ago, then I’d go back to it. The problem was –I was locked into the outline, I didn't know how to make the transition to the next thing. It didn't feel right, wouldn't flow.                                                                 
It wasn't until I was emailing my writing buddy about my dilemma. I needed help and any suggestions she could offer would be most welcome. I told her what I had so far, and where I wanted the story to go. For some reason, in that email, I started to ask what if, which is how I usually write. I threw out a couple of ideas to her and answered them myself. Finally, I was unblocked. I even created a new character and another conflict. I ignored the plot outline and went a completely different way.
That's how I write. I'm what they call a panster (I write by the seat of my pants) I don't plot, I don't outline. At least not on paper. (computer). I write as I go along asking what if, and coming up with new ideas. For me, plotting and outlining doesn't work. I’ll never do it again. I know you're not locked into your outline, but for me, I couldn't get past it. XY and Z had to happen. I was wrong, of course, but by plotting and outlining, my subconscious mind wouldn't let me get past it. At least not until I went back to asking what if in the middle of the story like I usually did.  I had trouble deviating from the outline.  It blocked my creativity. Yes, I should have ignored it long before, but it was too fresh in my mind. It took a year and then some to forget what was on that outline so I could move on.
I guess my whole point is – write the way it’s comfortable for you. For the authors who plot and outline - that works and good for them. 
There is no right or wrong way, there’s only your way. Develop your own style, your own voice, and your own rules. Some authors get up in the morning and sit down to write. Some write later in the day, and still others write in the middle of the night. Again, whatever works best for you. The important thing is to write.
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My current novels are available from Amazon at: http://amzn.to/tnqgR2  

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