Writing Wednesday: Writing without a plan

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safety net

I recently discovered an article from 2009 called Writing Without A Net on Do Some Damage (found via the Notebook Stories archives).

The author writes his novels without a plan. He knows “generally where the story is going,” but otherwise he’s completely winging it. This sometimes results in some serious writer’s block. Without an outline of the plot, he has come into some sticky situations where he wasn’t sure how he was going to get his character through it. He manages to come up with solutions when he steps away from his writing (as many of us do, when out for a walk or in the shower).

I don’t write novels, but I can’t imagine writing without a plan of knowing how the story is going to go. That’s just how I work in general. I like to think through the details ahead of time, then flesh things out afterward.

But, I can definitely see the advantage of having no limits to your creativity, and letting the story flow naturally. It’s exciting to think of the story developing as it comes out, with the author not knowing how the story will end until it happens.

How do you work? Do you prefer to work out the details ahead of time? Or do you like to see where your creativity takes you?

One thought on “Writing Wednesday: Writing without a plan

  1. I’m a “pantser” (term of art for this syndrome). I’ve tried plotting and it absolutely kills my creativity. Most writers fall on one side or other of the continuum. There’s a variant called “puzzler” where you write spontaneously, but out of order.

    For me, I have to crawl inside my characters’ heads and let them take me where they want to go. But since they manage to do it in spurts of nearly 3000 words at a time, I’ve learned to let them do it. Yes, there are times they write me into a corner and I have to ditch thousands of words, but plots don’t always work out either. So, in the words of a famous writing coach, pantsers write VERY long outlines aka first drafts.

    They key is finding out what works. Trying to force a writer into a method contrary to their natural inclination tends to result in immediate and terrible writers block and inertia much like insisting a left-handed person use their right hand only, because “that’s how its done.”

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