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Plans within plans

15 November 2010

With the National Novel Writing Month (competition? event? thingy?) underway, there’s a lot of writer-type traffic on Twitter. People are posting word counts, talking about their characters, and generally sharing the trials and tribulations that will hopefully result in a 50,000 first draft in a few weeks.

One subject I’ve seen brought up a lot — plotting and outlining. Some writers seem to swear by it. Before they write a single word of the story, they’ll have pages and pages of notes, character bios, and outlines to help them through it.

I’m kind of strange about plotting, in that I do it in various and unorganized ways. I don’t outline — never really have (in college, I used to just write papers first, then generate an outline from the draft, as I really hated trying to outline something before writing it). I will make notes as I go along to help me remember stuff, whether they’re organized in a Word doc or scrawled hastily on the back of an envelope (or, often, the inside of my left arm).

What about you, writer friends? How extensively do you plot? Any good outlining or plotting tips to share?

And reader friends: do you think it shows through in a finished book that a writer has meticulously outlined beforehand? How do you tell?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 November 2010 0707

    Man, I am loving this blog.

    I’m with you. I HATE outlining. A friend once got me a workbook to help with it, and while the book is probably a very good one for those who do like outlining, by the time I’d finished following all of its instructions (since I felt I owed it to the friend to at least try to make good use of his gift), I felt like alllllllll of that time would have been better spent just writing the damn book. Now, I kind of make notes when I get an idea, or if something occurs to me that takes place further down the narrative than I’ve written, I’ll jot it down, but I don’t get bogged down in outlining the whole thing anymore. Of course, all of this assumes that I have time to write my own creative stuff and feel like doing it after spending the day writing sell-out copy and editing other people’s work.

    • 15 November 2010 0838

      Like you, I tried outlining — once. It seemed to rob the story of any sort of spontaneity. Now, if I’m rolling along and get a plot point idea, it gets jotted down, but formal outlines = no, at least for me.

  2. 17 November 2010 1632

    Personally, I’m thinking the type of personality that has to outline and plan out a story has no business writing one. The best stories tend to flow and write themselves. Hell, MOST good writers I know have a beginning thought (which is often the end of the story), and work at it from there.

    • 17 November 2010 2009

      Yeah, I’m just not disciplined enough to kill all the spontaneity in my story, I guess. 🙂

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