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Plot first?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Filk, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. Filk

    Filk Troubadour

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    I have recently hit the 35k word mark on the story I am writing and am finally off running. My beginning now feels complete (at least for my main characters part) and the plot is heating up. However, I do not have an overall layout of what is going to happen. I have some rather broad ideas, but I have been creating as I go. Is this a really bad idea? I am not opposed to editing and deleting parts of my story to incorporate new twists, but am I going to hit major problems by doing this? I feel like setting the plot too strictly will inhibit the free course my story is now following.

    What I'm driving at is that I would like to know whether it is better to outline the full course of story first or better to let it take its own course. Any input (positive about the latter is good hehe) would be appreciated.
     
  2. Corysaurus

    Corysaurus Acolyte

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    The only advice that I've heard in regard to this is to know your ending. At least then, you ultimately know what will happen while having the freedom to fill in everything that leads to it.
     
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  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    You're discovery writing & there's nothing wrong with that method. If you feel like you're slowing down or you get stuck, you can always outline a few scenes.

    I use outlines as road maps but they aren't strictly adhered to at all. I also like to see what happens & usually find that as I know the characters better, they open new story avenues. As those events change, I just alter that very loose outline to adapt to those changes.

    If you're doing well so far as a discovery writer, just roll with it. You'll know when you will need to make changes to how you work. This is all part of becoming the writer you're meant to be...learning how you work & finding your voice.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
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  4. Filk

    Filk Troubadour

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    Thank you both! These are things that I am glad to hear. I've never heard of discovery writing as a term, but that certainly sounds like what I am doing.
     
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    The two basic writing types are "Discovery Writing" & "Outline Writing". Many writers (like myself) fall somewhere in between. Some stick to one method for their entire careers, while others swap back and forth depending on the story.

    If you ever decide to try outlining, look at the 3 act structure first. It's probably the most basic structure for a novel length work.

    Also, it's not bad advice to have an ending in mind but don't feel like you have to have that lined up. Plenty of writers like to surprise themselves with endings. Some very well known authors have written the endings of stories over 50 times to find the right one.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
  6. pskelding

    pskelding Troubadour

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    Nothing wrong with discovery writing I think my first drafts no matter how well outlined end up discovery written in certain places. An outline is just that... an outline. Many famous writers do an outline to satisfy their publisher and then throw it away during their 1st draft.

    I'd recommend whatever method you are comfortable with. I would advise that your main character should have appeared and done stuff in or before your 3rd chapter. You should establish them early otherwise readers will feel lost unless you are the 2nd coming of George RR Martin that is. :D
     
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  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    The short answer Yes. Like T.A.S. said above, two basic types of writers. Only way to find out which you are or if you fall somewhere in between is to try and see.

    I fall somewhere in the middle. I can discovery write short stories, but now I find I like to outline at least a little. For novels, I outline to a certain point and discover the finer points.

    But regardless of which type of writer you are, I think knowing the three act structure in it's different forms is helpful. There have been lots of post on structure on Mythic Scribes so if you find yourself getting stuck, I suggest checking those threads. But if you're going good, just keep going. Don't mess with it if it ain't broke.
     
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  8. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    I think that it sounds like you may be falling somewhat in between outlining and what's called "pantsing," which is great if it's working for you. If you're chucking along with that much steam, it sounds like as you write the next scene or two is revealing itself to you, so you have a general idea of what direction you're headed in. Personally, I am a very linear writer who needs an outline to get from Point A to Point B - I have to know where I'm headed before I can set out getting there. But, even as detailed as my outlines tend to be, when I'm wrapped up in the writing and letting the characters run, they can still suprise the heck out of me and make me make major adjustments to the story, so really even my outlines are not so much cast in stone as rough guildlines.

    For example, one of my main series characters, who has always been very controlled, reserved, and calm, has recently revealed to me that she is addicted to stimulants to maintain this appearance of togetherness to keep up with her crushing load of responsibilities. And when she realizes that there has been an angel in her city this whole time, rather than reacting with expected welcome and relief, she smacks him silly and had to be restrained from beating him bloody!

    So, I think the moral of the story is, what ever works for you, works for you - your characters will probably throw the whole thing in the air and do whatever they please, anyway! ;)
     
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  9. advait98

    advait98 Sage

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    Yeah, lots of great writers discovery write. Kind of opens the mind a little. Write whatever the hell you want, as my good friend says. But yeah, I gues it also greatly lengthens the time of editing. Lot of stuff to cut out, propensity for plot holes, pacing of story inconsistent, a few problems.

    So, I guess it could help to outline the story somewhat before getting started, to make sure you know the initial direction you're going.
     
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  10. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    The very fact that you've gotten as far as 35K words in your draft tells me you're doing something right. I have never come close to that kind of word count.
     
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  11. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    One more piece of advice.

    Steady, sustained effort will amount to greater production in the end than binge writing from inspiration. If you haven't started to track your word count progress yet, start doing so. Keeping a record of your daily progress will not only show you how your efforts, in small increments, add to a greater success but it can motivate you to maintain a pace that may fall flat when the idea of inspiration wanes.
     
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  12. Filk

    Filk Troubadour

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    Thanks all. I was kind of fishing for the answers you gave me, but it is a major relief to hear them. I do force myself to write at least 300 words a day no matter how miserable the writing is, but aim for 1k+. Speaking of which, it's time to crunch out some more of those words.
     
  13. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Honestly that's an awesome way to go about things in terms of straight word count. A FYI for those who haven't thought about the metrics of wring. If you write 250 words a day for a year, you'll have a novel length work. If I'm remembering right, that's how the guy who wrote Fight Club did it, 250 words during his lunch hour.
     
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  14. celebathien

    celebathien Dreamer

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    I'd love to say that I'm 100% in one camp or the other, but the truth is... I'm not, really. I tend to outline things that I want to happen in the novel to the end, but during writing, I wind up with long passages (frequently) that weren't in the outline and that smack of discovery writing. The topics can vary: war, the nature of humanity, even creation vs. destruction. Now, I admit that when I come back to it, much of that gets cut out because it doesn't really wind up fitting into things. But it is there in the first draft. And, like others in the thread, shorter works (even the term papers and essays I write) can go that route of not having an outline. Of course, doing that tends to net me lower marks, but... It's usually coupled with a lack of editing. ;)

    No matter how you write, the fact you're getting words on a page is what matters. You can always go back and tidy it up later.
     
  15. advait98

    advait98 Sage

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    Yeah, keep doing that. I myself try to do about 3000 words a week, which is like 300 words for 4 days and 600 words for the other three. It really drives me on, that target, although I do grimace at some of the words I write.

    Stick to it, write everyday, don't even think of writing every other day, it makes you lax in your writing and lazy if you're used to the daily system. Although judging from your last statement, that's not going to be a worry.
     
  16. Sean Cunningham

    Sean Cunningham Dreamer

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    I summarise as I go, writing a few lines per chapter when the chapter is complete. As the characters and storylines take shape, I start to make notes about where I think they're going. Gradually the summary of past chapters comes to include a rough plan of future chapters. It will likely change somewhat by the time I get there, but that's all good.
     
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