To Plot or Not

When I first started out as a writer, I was a ‘pantser’. I didn’t think about what I was going to write, where my characters were going to go, or how they would get there. Well, sometimes I knew where I would like them to be at the end of the work, but that was an exception. Most of the time, I just wrote. Sometimes I was successful, other times I was not. Often, I would write myself into a corner and, having no way out, would throw away the work and begin something different. This was a successful strategy for me because I was writing as a form of creative activity. My writing was for me and I would only allow a few other people to read the work if I thought that it was a style of writing that they would be interested in.

Later, I was asked to write a ‘choose your own adventure’ type story for a friend. I realised that I was going to need to plot this work. My skills as a pantser were not up to the challenge of thirty different endings, looping together, and tying all loose ends. So, I began to read those thousand and one blogs.

Some methods were so confusing. Most methods didn’t work for me. Those that I could use, didn’t work well and my writing was caged in. But I trudged forward. Failure after failure. I began to feel that I would never succeed; that I would never be able to plot my way into anything, let alone a well-rounded story. It was embarrassing when people asked what plotting method I used. ‘All of them’, ‘none of them’, ‘how the heck do you plot anything’? I used to just say, ‘oh, I’m a pantser’ and leave the conversation as quickly as humanly possible. I was certain that I would never amount to anything – after all, that’s what those blogs were telling me. If I couldn’t use their ‘simple’ 5-step, 9-step, or 16-step process, how was I going to whittle my way through a story?

I bought into the rhetoric, the facebook groups, the drama filled comments, and I suffered. But then, I realised what the problem was. My brain and its voices tell me a story and I just write it down. I was a passenger in the process. I decided to take control.

When I am asked now what method I used to plot my stories, I explain that I am a creative. When I plot, I use whichever method works for that story. As I lean forward to take the person into my confidence, I whisper, “and sometimes I just let my brain take me on an adventure.”

After all, isn’t that why we started to write? There was a story that had to get out… Don’t let your story get lost in the prattle of those blogs. You do you. I know that I am doing me.

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