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February 16, 2024

To Plot or Not to Plot

By the time I decided I wanted to write, I’d read romances for years and had unconsciously absorbed a lot about story structure and characterization.

It never occurred to me to plot. I knew what I wanted to write and sat down and pounded out that sucker. After a month, I had my first draft, which I promptly sent to a publisher and received a rejection, but that is another story.

I learned more about writing and craft after writing my first story and about plotting. Huh, I thought. Maybe I should try plotting?

So I did.

And you know what?

I hated plotting.

One of two things usually happened: I’d get to the end of my plotting process and become bored with the story, or I’d start writing and let old habits creep back. Suddenly, the story I was writing was very different from what I’d plotted, which equaled wasted time.

It took me a long time to understand that there is no one way to write a book. Just because all my friends and acquaintances plotted their books, it didn’t mean that I needed to do the same.

Part of the charm of writing for me is only having a vague idea of the path to the end of the story. I love learning what happens along with my characters. If I plan too much, I tend to get bored with the story.

That said, my writing methods have changed slightly over the years. These days, I like to have a better grasp of my characters—their goals, motivations, and conflicts, both internal and external. I percolate the plot in my head for a while before I start writing while in the past, I’d start writing a lot sooner.

So my advice to aspiring authors is to go with what feels natural to you. Try plotting and try flying into the mist like I do. It might be that neither method works, and you gravitate to a method halfway between the two.
At the start of your writing career is the time to try everything and experiment with different ways of doing things. Keep experimenting until you find the perfect fit!