Wednesday, March 14, 2012

To Plot or Not - or Overcoming Writer's Block

At one of our chapter meetings of RWA, the speaker talked about plotting a novel and writing a synopsis before the book was written. She suggested if we had never done that to try it.
So I did.
I had an idea for a story that was taking shape in my mind. As usual, I knew how it would begin and how it would end. What happened in the middle? I didn’t have a clue. It was a much a surprise to me as it was to the reader.  Oh, I had a few ideas. I knew there was a secret about my heroine’s birth, and 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 why.
I started to outline my plot, and I came up with a pretty good story line. Then, I started writing. For a while, it flowed pretty well. My heroine discovered the body.  Then I was stuck. Something didn’t feel right to me. I wasn’t sure what it was, but for some reason, I couldn’t move on. My heroine wouldn’t let me. No matter how I tried to write the next conflict, I couldn’t.
I was totally blocked. The story sat for almost two years without me typing even one word. Every time I opened it, I read it, made a few changes, and then I got 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. I couldn’t do it. So I’d move on to something else. I revised several other stories that I’d written a long time ago, and 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. I couldn't get that plot outline out of my head.                                                                                 
It wasn’t until one day; I was emailing my writing buddy about my dilemma. I needed help and any suggestions she could offer would be most welcome. I wrote 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 wrote. 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 threw out the plot outline and went a completely different way. Once I ignored that outline, the story flowed.
That was how I usually wrote, asking what if as I wrote, coming up with new ideas. For me, outlining doesn’t work. I’ll never do it again. For others, it works fine and good for them.  I understand it’s not necessary to stick to the outline, but for me, since I wrote it, I had trouble deviating from it.  It blocked my creativity. Yes, I should have ignored it long before, but it was too fresh in my mind. It took two years and then some to forget what was on that outline so I could move on. I, for one, will never outline a plot again.


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