I’m about to get angry. Everyone duck.
DISCLAIMER: if you are a plotter by nature and believe in the power of plotting your novel, do not take offence. I don’t care how you write your novel, and that is the whole point of this post. Write how YOU need to write.
*grabs megaphone and climbs onto roof*
My problem with plotting:
Please stop telling me and everyone else what to do. I feel like the main difference between plotters and pantsers has nothing to do with how they approach writing. It has to do with this:
Pantsers: “This is the only way I can write. I can’t help but write in utter chaos. Oh well. Whatever. Imma go write.”
Plotters: “I write SO efficiently. If you plot your novel will be AMAZING. If you don’t plot okay but…plotting will make your life infinitely better!!”
See the difference? And here’s the thing: I have written outlines for novels, and I have also just started without any idea where the story was going. And you know what?
Plotted novels turned out horrible. Plotted novels turned out great and vice versa. (Given, I have not written those super in depth like 20,000 word outlines. My brain just won’t do that I most of the time and I don’t want to. Yet who knows. It might happen one of these days). There is nothing that guarantees that your story will be good.
It’s like ballet (I know I’ve used this analogy before, and I will keep using it till kingdom come). A good pirouette is a good pirouette, but how you get to doing a good pirouette is completely relative. Some dancers think of zipping up their mom jeans while others think of passing a shoe to the other hand or a string is pulling them up from the top of their head. It doesn’t matter if a dancer has to mutter “bibbidi bobbidi boo” every time they do a pirouette so long as they do the !@#$% step correctly!!
Same with writing. If it’s a good story, do we really care how you get there? It took JRR Tolkien 12 FREAKING YEARS to write the Lord of the Rings. Are you going to go up to him and say, “Well, you could have written it faster if you outlined.” Well, and he might have written it faster if he had Microsoft Word but here we are.
Can’t we just leave people to create the way they want to? My mom used to always have to wear a hat when she sat down to write. Shonda Rhimes always has to wear headphones. Short of doing something that damages you or other people, if it enables you to create, do it.
The fact that some people can plot is AMAZING. That people can sit down and detail a plot to the last…detail, all without drafting? I mean that boggles my mind. My brain just doesn’t always work that way. I’ve outlined (sparsely) stories and they don’t always turn out well, same with pantsting. I plotted for NaNoWriMo for two years, failed, and the fourth year I didn’t plot AT ALL. ZIP. NADA. And I won. So there.
Ultimately too, writing is an art form. Not to get all artsy fartsy on you but I’m going to. And while there are certain methods to things (paint the background first, etc). You can’t tell people to create in a certain way. Control how they get inspired, figure out to do things, etc. Writing is an art form and it should be treated as such with the same respect. People should feel like they have artistic freedom without someone looking down their noses at them going, “Well, THIS way is better…” It’s art for pete’s sake. Not rocket science. We’re not trying to get a man to the moon where a miscalculation means the spaceship is going to explode. You’re writing, the worse thing that can happen is: you start over.
Another thing that people say about plotting is, “but since I have an outline, I never get stuck when I write! I always know what to write next!”
Yes, is you have an outline this is true. But did you ever get stuck writing the outline????? I mean at some point when you were writing the outline you sat there thinking and brainstorming of what comes next, how the scene should go etc. So like…in principle you still get stuck at some point. At least I do.
When I draft, I can’t remember a time recently when I got seriously stuck. When I do get stuck, I start brainstorming, very much like I would be doing if I wrote an outline.
Soooo basically…we’re just moving the places of where we get stuck.
AND, outlines take time to write. Especially if you take care to write good one (I write shallow crappy ones that are full of plot holes, so I don’t count). I mean good outlines where the pacing and the plots holes and character arcs everything else is fixed to it’s all smooth and ready to draft. I mean….that’s gonna take time, just like drafting a novel from scratch takes time.
I also want to say that I understand why people outline. For some it’s the only way they keep organized, or feel good about the story. Some people just like to do it, like I like flying by the seat of my pants. And for certain kinds of fiction, like mystery/detective I can see how outline can be really important. Some people need the organization, others find it hampering.
One last thing. (hopefully)
Now, there is nothing wrong about a writer going, “I need to learn how to write faster and more efficiently.” Or, “NaNoWriMo is coming up…I want to learn some strategies to win.” I just did a whole post on the importance of quantity. And maybe the key to you writing faster is outlining. Do it. There are good things that can come from outlining and plotting. Some people live by it, find it helpful, and just love it.
But if that’s not you, it doesn’t matter.
I learned how to write quickly by letting go of how my words came out. (that…is a weird sentence). NOT by learning how to outline. I let go of where a scene may go, if it turned out good or bad, and just did it.
I’m just sick of the attitude that outlining is the only way to write and the perfect way to write.
Write a story on a piece of greasy napkin I don’t care.
When your book is out there, whether published or being reviewed by agents and editors, no one is going to put their hands on their hips and go, “Well, how did you write it?”
Header Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash
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