Why I Don’t Plot

So far, I don’t like to plot or outline.

Instead, I like to dive head first into cold water with Megaladon swimming nearby. I know it’s a bad idea, but the call of the sea is too strong.

But in less dramatic fashion – the fact is that my urge to write a story is too much for me to stop myself and really plot it out. This is the way I work and I by no means am saying it’s the right way, or that it’s not pure chaos.

Because that’s what it turns out to be anyway – chaos.

I mull a story idea over in my head long before I write a word, whether it’s a book or short story, but I don’t plan it out on paper or my whiteboard. I hardly ever know where it’s going or what I hope to accomplish by the end.

I just start writing.

Which of course leads me to a giant pile of words and scenes that are so jumbled I have no idea where to even begin when it’s time to revise.

When I wrote my novella for my master’s thesis, I had to provide the graduate school with a summary of my story…before I’d completed a full draft.

All I had at that point was an idea for characters and a setting. I didn’t have a clue what would happen past the first couple chapters. And they wanted me to submit a full summary for approval?

I wanted to dive right into the Meg’s mouth – willingly.

I waited until the deadline (of course) to submit anything. Wrote a summary that was vague enough for me to play with but specific enough to pass through the grad school. And I used this summary to start writing, but sure enough, the deeper I dove into the draft, the more different the story turned out to be than even the vague summary.

I had characters and specific scenes floating around in my head, and I wrote them down as I thought about them – out of order, with partial dialogue, etc. I felt if I didn’t write them down immediately, I’d forget about them, especially since I had so much homework and papers to grade in the middle of trying to write a short book. Or worse, I’d remember the scenes as a whole but not the interesting details I’d previously imagined.

I still feel this way – so I don’t plot.

And it’s not a bad thing, which is something I didn’t embrace in the beginning of my thesis experience. I felt pressured to stick with my summary, forcing the story to adhere to what I’d originally submitted. Because I couldn’t lie to the grad school, could I!

But that’s the thing with outlining excessively – becoming inflexible. I felt it was restricting me from taking the story where it needed to go.

So in writing my thesis, I let it flow the way I felt it needed to. I could make changes later. Who knew, maybe I’d circle back around to the summary I’d submitted (I didn’t, but I told myself that to get me through to the end).

In any case, there’s just something very exciting about a fresh start with no plans of where it’s going. I felt so risque, like a real rebel – I know, I know, I should get out more.

But until then, I’ll just write.

Just writing actually helps me in the long run. What I found through my thesis experience was that I figure out a lot of the story if I just write it.

I learn about the story as I go – what works and what doesn’t (in my opinion at least) as I let the scenes play out. Sure I revise them later on, but it’s through writing that I learn what the plot should be. The story takes on a life of its own.

I sort through the chaos, wading through the jumbled words, to find the gold that’s hiding in the murky waters. Isn’t that the way of life, anyway? Travelling down a complicated, unorganized path before finding ourselves? Making mistakes along the way and learning from them?

We create our own stories this way, reflected by the choices we make. We may plan and plan, but things don’t always turn out this way. Of course, it helps if we have a little bit of an idea to get us going, but in the end, things always pan out the way they’re supposed to.

So I like to let go and enjoy the process, no matter how chaotic it might get.

2 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Plot

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