I would like to hear opinions on the benefits of plotting the entire book.

I got a good basic direction for my story, but wonder would it beneficial to plot the story to the end to move the forward without slowing down the writing.

Any suggestions???


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This is a perennial question and it really comes down to what works for you. People who outline really dig having a set map to follow (though many will deviate from the outline) and those who are 'seat-of-the-pants' writers like to be surprised. So, y'know, try 'em both (uh, not at the same time) and see which one does the trick.
Hi Joe!
I've found for me, I prefer not to make a detailed plot.
I think it's important to have an idea where the story will end--but that's it.
I started something with a few characters some weeks ago--with just a vague idea for an end. basically, the characters are calling the shots.
Naturally, it's easy to go off the rails with this--you need to make some notes with each chapter or so. I do no more than a paragraph of notes--YOU DON'T LET IT BECOME A MESS. some folks on this site will tell you that and they're right! keep a tight hold on your work. don't let it wander too much. Stephen King says: the plot is best kept under house arrest.
so that's it-- just go for it.
I am well into my story (novel) now. I look forward to writing daily--when I was plotting heavily and too detailed, I found my writing tedious and forced. and worst of all (for me) contrived, not fresh.
Just yesterday, I was surprised by what some character needed to have happen to her.
I hope I'm clear. my advice to you (and I'm new at this too) is just go for it.
get your characters sorted. know their personalities and then throw them into the story and see what happens. all the best!
I make very detailed plots and character bios so the prep work for me is very time consuming.
If I just put up at my lap top with no idea what I was going to write I think I'd find that daunting.
HB x
oops I realize now that I've been up for a few hours that I didn't answer your question!
I suppose for plotting, as Helen said--you should make a detailed plot with character bios.
I suppose if I were plotting I might cut the book into thirds: first third you're setting up your beginning action. Middle--it's no going back and end==you're setting in motion events for the climax.
write your idea out, and then break it down bit by bit. see if that's any help.
Everyone is different. I have a hard time writing anything without a pretty good idea of where it's going, so i tend to plot thoroughly.

If you're not sure which you prefer, Patricia Highsmith came up with a good compromise. Outline several chapter ahead of where you are. it provides structure, but there's still the spontaneity of not knowing exactly what's going to happen too far in advance.
Start without plotting first since that will get you writing faster, and if it doesn't work for you, stop and plot it out. Might be a good way to find which way you like best.
The one novel I wrote with a detailed outline turned out to be a real piece of shite -- very stilted. I now always write with just an idea and go from there. Some novels go no more 50 pages before I trash it, if it ain't going anywhere. On the plus side, when writing freestyle, ideas come up that never would have hit me in an outline.
so true! Ideas just come to me without an outline! I agree.
I do a detailed outline, and on those occasions when the next bit isn't mapped out, I feel a bit rudderless and don't know what to write. I don't necessarily stick to the outline, but if I do deviate from it, knowing where I am going back to helps me. The best analogy I can think of is that I know my journey, and although sometimes I take a scenic detour, I still know my ultimate destination.

Each to their own, I suppose. Some people like to see the story evolve, some people like to know where they are going. For me, not having an outline slows me down.
For all the recent short stories and scripts I've done, I mapped out every scene in advance. When I went back to novel-writing, I thought I might do the same, but nope, I ended up plotting only a chapter or two ahead. That said, I don't think I'd ever start a story now without a pretty clear idea of where it was going and what the ending would be. Even if I don't know exactly how I'm going to get there, I need to know the destination, even if for no better reason than making sure that I'm setting my readers' expectations to be appropriate for the ending. If they spend the whole book expecting a stunningly dark conclusion and I give them a lamely cheerful one, I figure they'll be more hacked off than if I pointed to the lamely cheerful denouement from the start.
Hi, Joe,
I'll start by repeating what everyone else says -- do whatever works. Some people find arduous outlining becomes an excuse not to write, others find that some level of plotting helps them to stay focused and energized.

As for me, I've done it both ways, (writing that is ;=) and enjoyed it both ways. My heavily researched Gold & Fishes HAD to be outlined and plotted to the end to stay 100% true to actual events and circumstances as they unfolded in the news that came out of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. However, my novella The Noon God flowed directly from my heart, not to sound too corny, and everyone who read it gave it very high marks for smooth flow and tight plotting. So it can work either way, depending on the needs of your story and your own best work methods.

My most recent manuscript was only loosley outlined, but having said that, I will confess that I completely wrote the last chapter first. I knew where I was going from the beginning, and never altered that last chapter even a little at any point. I am still in love with that last chapter. It was in front of me the whole way through my 100,000 words, like a light shining at the end of a tunnel, and it kept me fresh and motivated every day.

Happy Writing, whatever method you decide on!
Donna Carrick
Joe: It's my belief that writers are either pre-plotters or post-plotters, to oversimplify. Some can work before they write to chart out a plot, and see all the possibilities clearly. Others have to be engaged in the writing process, working with a basic idea and letting the story emerge. Both likely do the same amount of work. The post-plotter will have to go back and revise dead ends, plant clues, and generally work on consistency once the plot emerges. The pre-plotter has done that already. I think it has to do with the different ways in which our brains process information and visualize the results. If you start in the pre-plotting mode and get a headache staring at a blank piece of paper, it's probably not for you. If you quickly start charting out characters and relationships, then you found your way.

I happen to be a post-plotter; I know what the story is about, but not the details of plot twists. So I tend to have a lot of balls in the air plot-wise early on, and then as the desired plot path emerges, I have to go back and fine tune things. Neither method, in my opinion, is better or worse; it's just a matter of when you do the work.

Good luck,



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