Friday, 26 January 2018

Plotting: Wrong Way or 'Write' Way? by Sophie Claire

Are you a plotter or a pantser? (If you're not sure what I'm talking about, there's a good explanation here)

I’m a wannabe plotter

I would love to be able to sit down and plan a book. I wish that before I started I could produce a neat map detailing exactly how the plot will unfold, when and how the characters will develop and change, and which obstacles they will face and overcome. And with every story I write, I try to do this.

Unfortunately, my mind doesn’t work that way.

My plot outlines are usually hazy with two-dimensional characters and predictable situations. 

It’s only as I write that the characters come alive and usually throw my plan out the window to take new, unexpected routes of their own choosing. Which is great. There’s nothing better than a character who knows their own mind and has their own unique fears and dreams and opinions. And if they surprise me, then hopefully they’ll surprise the reader too.

But to get to the point where my characters become fully developed like this involves a lot of hard work: hours spent at the computer, writing scenes which will later be deleted. 

In essence, I write, scrap what I’ve written, then rewrite and rewrite again. I have to explore a lot of dead ends before I find the right way
It’s a time-consuming process, and I used to berate myself for not getting it right first time. I wished there was a trusted and experienced professional would read my synopsis and instantly spot the flaws. A fairy godmother who would give me advice (kill off the ex-girlfriend, increase the conflict here, raise the stakes there…) which would save me months of work.

Over time, however, I’ve realised that no one has a magic wand, and this is simply my method of writing. 

It feels scary, fumbling around in the dark, struggling with a story for weeks and months. When it's not going well, writing feels like the loneliest job in the world. I feel lost and alone, I question why I ever started this novel...

                               – then, suddenly, a bulb lights up and everything falls into place.

This has been the process with each of the last 3 books I’ve written, and I’m finally learning to accept it. To keep the faith and keep writing even if what I write today will be deleted tomorrow. Now, rather than seeing these scrapped scenes as wasted pages or wrong turns, I understand that they’re invaluable for getting to know my characters and understanding what makes them tick.

So that when I find the right path, I’m certain it’s right. 

What's your writing method? Are you happy with it?


Photos copyright: Sophie Claire and Pixabay


  1. Oh Sophie, This is so familiar. We might easily meet on an untrodden path sometime. anne stenhouse

    1. I like to think it keeps my writing fluid and flexible! Glad I'm not alone.x

  2. That's just how it is for me with my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries too - just finishing writing the fourth, and with every one, the characters take over and scupper my best-laid plans!

    1. I'm curious to read those. Good luck with your writing, Debbie.

  3. Spot on, Sophie. How can you know your characters when you haven't seen how they react on the page? I'm with you - and I think that too much heavy planning without flexibility especially with charts of the characters' 'GMC's can lead to 'tick box' writing.

    1. Good point, Philipa. Goal Motivation & Conflict are really important, but sometimes it takes time for them to become clear.

  4. Your method sounds rather like mine, Sophie! I feel like I should be a plotter, worry about being a pantser, then spend the whole time with my fingers crossed, hoping it'll all come out in the wash! :)

  5. Yep, I'm a pantser. I like to be just as surprised as my readers. :)


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