Re: RE: Plot outlines?

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Jersey Jack – 2009-10-01 1:29 PM

Okay, first serious post here–well, serious for me, at least. This is the thing: I can write fairly fluently when I finally sit down to do it, but I can’t for the life of me develop plotlines to structure my writing. When I write I usually find interesting new expressions, cool bits of description, psychological insights, etc., but the piece ends up going nowhere–it just stops when I run out of gas, without any forward movement into a plot. When I try to outline a plot up front, the whole business seems so contrived and uninspiring that the writing falls flat.

This sounds like either A) you’re focusing too much on the words and not on the story, or B) it’s really not as bad as it seems, you’re just being self-critical.

I’d really like some advice on plot pre-construction. I’ve looked through a lot of the posts here, and I know that some writers just start writing, and then plot arises out of the initial writing. How does that work? Do you really start with nothing, or do you have some rudimentary plot in mind? (You must pre-think character names, right?)

I can only speak for myself. I usually start with a character (the main character) and a basic plot (events that that character will go through) and then start writing. I’ll stop to think of names only as I need them. Same goes for stopping to do research, only on an as needed basis. The important thing is to get the story out.

Remember that a plot is made up of events. Characters should go through some kind of arc from beginning to end that changes their view on things (whether that be of themselves, others, or the situation) but they have to be active or the story will quickly bore the reader.

How much plot do you need to have before writing begins, and in what form do you develop it (e.g., formal outline, precis paragraph, chart, etc.)? Outlines leave me cold; writing without outlines revs me up but takes me nowhere… 🙁 Jersey Jack

Again, I can only speak for myself. I don’t outline, but sometimes I will jot down what I think should happen at a later point from where I happen to be writing at the time. This gives me something to write toward. A goal. There’s a name for it: headlight plotting. The details of the story come out through the process of writing. Subplots emerge. Stuff will jump onto the page that you would have never come up with if you’d pre-plotted the whole thing. That’s the beauty of letting your creativity flow.

Especially when writing a novel, it’s easy to get carried away with overanalyzing structure and trying to plot out every last happening. Personally, I just sit down and write. The more you write (read: practice), the more you can write in correct structure without even thinking about it too much. I think about the structure of things in more detail after I’ve written the first draft.

Everyone has to find the best way of doing things for them, and the only way to do that is by writing, writing, and then writing some more.