Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Write the way that works for you

Jessica from Mussidan, France, sent in the following plea for help: I’ve been told by my writing tutor that I have to plot each chapter of my novel from start to finish before I even begin writing it. Is he right? I’ve tried, but it doesn’t seem to work for me. I know the story in my head and just want to get on with it.

It seems there are two types of writers: plotters, who have to know exactly what is going into each chapter and scene before they write a word, and pansters, who like to write by the seat of their pants and allow the characters to decide where the story is going.

Both systems work, but neither works for everyone.

My advice would be to go with what suits your writing style. However, to keep your writing tutor happy, why not scribble down the basic plot of what is already in your head? Not a chapter by chapter, scene by scene plan, but a simple outline so that he can see where the novel is headed.

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Lexi said...

I'd really hate to write down my basic plot and show it to anyone. The notes I write are just for me; a seedling book is a fragile thing. The wrong comment could kill it altogether.

What if Jessica's writing tutor is unsympathetic to her genre/style? He sounds too rigid to be helpful.

Lorraine Mace said...

I'm inclined to agree with you, Lexi, that the tutor sounds too rigid to be helpful, but that's another issue altogether.

Jessica, presumably, has to submit this for an assignment, which means she will have to share her novel outline with the tutor in some form. I was simply suggesting a way that might allow her to get past his insistence on chapter by chapter plotting.

To be honest, in her situation I would ask for a different tutor, but, as I said earlier, that's a different problem for her to deal with.

WRITERachael said...

Do you think the same is true for short stories?

As there is so little space to diverge from the plot (if any) in a short story, I wonder if you think there should be more importance placed on having a clear outline before you begin?

Lorraine Mace said...

Short stories sometimes arrive in a writer's head fully formed. You can see the beginning, the conflict and resolution with blinding clarity, but this doesn't mean to say you have to stick to that original vision.

I think having a definite outline is an excellent idea, but always be open to including additional layers if you can see they would work and add depth.