Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oh! The Places You'll Go!

So I don't want to get pedantic or preachy today, but I want to address this post to those writers who are afraid to plot because they think that it takes all the surprises out of writing.

Well, I'm here to say that I don't plot every little thing that happens in my manuscript before I write. I imagine that would be exhausting and take all the fun out of the journey you've taken with your characters. But there is a happy medium between and unplanned road-trip and an over-planned tour. Think cruise ship.

Taking myself for example (since I've yet to set up my experimental laboratory full of guinea pigs-- er, I mean writers-- for less biased research), I recently added some scenes to my wip AFTER I thought it was finished. I didn't plan to skip these chapters, but when I read through my printed copy of my first draft, I knew something was missing.

My initial notes for these new chapters?

Cast more suspicion on red herrings. Develop E and M's friendship.

While I've covered those bases-- I think ;)-- I've also packed even more plot into these chapters than I ever thought possible. I've done horrible things to my mc, caused her anxiety and pain, and even made her debate ending her life! I'm so cruel. But it's all for the betterment of the story.

The point is, I didn't plan any of these things. I'm the type of writer who NEEDS (with a capital N-E-E-D) to have some idea of where I'm going. An itinerary, to keep from abusing the inappropriate term "outline", and to go along with our "cruise" metaphor. This itinerary keeps me hopping from one important destination to another, making sure I see all the important sights and scenery.

But there's plenty of time to visit the places not on the itinerary, see the sights that make the trip really worthwhile. These surprises are what give your work life and flavor, real color and craziness. Isn't it always the kooky side-trips that you remember the most about your vacations? The unexpected adventures? It's the same way for me when I'm writing. I can never have everything planned, and so while I feel the safest when I'm writing the scenes that I've already planned, I have the most fun writing the scenes that are "off-itinerary".

And having an itinerary means I won't wind up in the doldrums with writer's block.

Give it try sometime! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the places you'll go. ;)

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