To Plan or Not To Plan?

Who knew that writing a book, or even creating a decent plot would take much more than an idea slipping into your head during a train ride to Edinburgh? 

No Plot, No Plan

At this point, I have written the first draft of the first half of the first third of my first novel, (I dare you to say that very fast, five times!) but without a concrete blueprint to go on, I have no idea where to go from here.

Of course anyone would point out that this is obviously what happens when you don’t plan before you start writing. You end up high and dry after the first fires of writing where you zoom to your computer every morning and just type and type as the story gets stronger and stronger when suddenly, the light winks out and you realize that everything you’ve typed so far seems like a lot of bloody drivel, forgive my Klingon.

The whole story is there in my head.

It’s there, in bright colour and motion with fully formed characters, epic battle scenes and oodles of emotion that I know will hold the world in awe. The only problem is getting the images out of my head and into the paper in brilliant prose, there are even fragments of what will happen after the story. (I refuse to employ the word sequel as it would paint me out to be an overconfident, unrealistic boor!)

The issue here is not that I don’t like planning, or that I haven’t tried out any form of planning. It’s just that what I write is never what I planned I’m going to write. I realize that this is exactly like doing a painting a fragment at a time; pencilled, inked and painted without having any idea of the whole picture. It’s like a jigsaw, where you didn’t get to see the complete image on the front of the box so you fit all kinds of pieces together and take countless detours along the way.

I can see that this haphazard approach to writing a novel may evidently take longer to complete as I’ll have to make plenty of pit stops, because I have no idea where I’m going… 

I also know that during the whole trip I will be telling myself that I’m never going to get there because unlike real writers, I don’t got no plan!

So is it right? Forging ahead without any definite idea or plan. Relying only on the power of my wild imagination which is what made me think I could write in the first place. Should I stick to this approach for the rest of the first draft? After all, NaNoWriMo is all about unplanned writing, right? I can always fix it when I get to the second draft.

But this also reminds me of a line Vanessa Redgrave’s character says in Letters to Juliet.

When her grandson says it would be nice if the mansion they are driving towards really belongs to her childhood beau because she got to skip the messy bit of when he went from the boy who worked the fields to the man who owns them.

“Life, is the messy bits!”


2 thoughts on “To Plan or Not To Plan?

  1. Hi there – I enjoyed reading this post.:)
    I am an irredeemable plotter, so I’m probably way too biased to advise you. But maybe taking down a few broad notes on what’s going to happen in your novel will get your progress started again and give you a bit of a bit of a road map to follow, even if it’s a very general, “go that way” sort of direction. You could even try writing non-linearly (not from beginning to end) if some scenes are clearer in your mind than others, and then connect them all together later.
    As to what you actually write not being what you planned to write, my writing teacher in high school used to say that true creativity isn’t the act of coming up with a story idea and writing it to plan, but rather is all the parts that arise unbidden as the plot unfolds on the paper.
    Keep writing, and good luck!

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