by S.E. Jones
As mentioned previously, I do quite badly with planning anything. If I know how a story ends, it’s not something I can bring myself to write. I’m bored – what’s the point in writing it down if I know how it’s going to go?
This has caused issues in the past. And where do you turn when you have writing issues? Other writers.
There are some people out there who are planners. They meticulously make character charts, and plan out every beat and counter beat. They’re big on the scaffolding.
Doing such a thing would both A) drive me crazy, and B) suck any of the enjoyment in the story out for me.
So what to do? Do I discount these other writers as “not the same as me?” Do I decide that their by-the-numbers style could never apply to me?
No. Many planners write the way they do because it works. They know a lot about story structure, and people in general. The best planners use techniques to manipulate readers to get the emotional output that they want, not to churn out story after story.
Manipulating readers is always a good thing. It’s one of the major points of writing the damn story down in the first place.
But again, I can’t plan. So how is there any point in reading their advice?
Well, I just don’t use it when I’m writing.
This seems stupid. Why would I invest all that time to read about how someone writes if I’m not going to use it when I’m writing?
There’s a couple of answers to this:
- Some of it sticks, buries itself into my subconscious and pops up when I need it, mostly without me realising it. The first thing I wrote wasn’t a stream of conscious – it had a beginning, middle and end despite me never having planned any of it. This comes from a history of reading. You start to pick patterns up subconsciously.
- It’s bloody useful for the second draft.
- It’s useful for when I get stuck – I can look at these theories on story craft and use it to pick my way out a mess.
The last two need some extrapolation. Second draft? Well, using planner’s methods lets me take a step back, look at what I’ve written, and see what works and what doesn’t. As I said, these theroies on plot, character and story exist for a reason – they’ve worked. If I’m doing something different then I should at least be aware that I’m doing it, to see what effect I’m loosing, and what effect I’m gaining.
And as for unpicking mess? I tend to get stuck in the middle. Generally it’s for two reasons A), I haven’t come up with where I’m going, or B), I’ve figured out where I’m going, and I don’t know how to get there.
Taking a break, stepping back form where I am, and figuring out where I’m going wrong are all made easier when I look at the techniques that other writers use to plan their work.
Guest post contributed by S.E. Jones. S.E. is a writer and paramedic living in London. When not doing the above two things, she reads.
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I knew how my book started and how it ended. I also knew a few points in the middle. What I didn’t know, until I wrote it, was how to get from Point A to Point B etc, The story that emerged very often surprised me. I would suggest that just because you know how it ends, doesn’t mean you won’t have a lot to learn about your characters on their journey. For me, that was what kept my interest. Don’t lose an idea because you think you know how it will end 🙂
When I first started getting serious about writing again, I wrote like you and got through the first draft. What happened to it is a whole other story. Now I try to do character sketched and setting summaries along with a loose plot idea. Now, reading this post, I wonder if I’d be better off going back to the way I did it the first time.
I can’t plan out the whole plot either. Most of the fun of writing for me is the ideas that come as you write, the surprises that emerge as your characters develop.
I’d like to think some of the writing tips I read all the time do stick. Like you, I seem unable to plot, at least not meticuously: The hardest thing about not plotting is deciding on where the story is going. You want to get those words written, and it can seem like an insurmountable journey at times.
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How I Use Writing Books, an article by S.E. Jones with some great tips:
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