Should we plan our novels? Or can the planning cramp out style? Steven King in his “On Writing” claims he does not plan, yet his stories are well structured and his plots technically perfect. It all seems so effortless to him. He claims that the stories come from the characters. That has to be right – there are no stories without characters after all – don’t all stories come from the tension between the characters?
I do like to plot and plan. I always have done – for any sort of writing. They are only the briefest of outlines, however. I start from that all important question “What is your novel about?” and then I build up into a story arc. Before this of course, I’ve worked on my characters and their motivations – even if only in my head as I’ve been driving, ironing or cooking. These seem to be my best thinking times.
As I write, I form a chapter by chapter plan. Each chapter also has its own plan. I do find that by having a plan to refer to I’m able to concentrate on the actual writing and not worry so much about the shape. Interestingly, I don’t write out a plan for this blog, but I do a hold a five point shape in my head as I write. I don’t think in my case sticking to a plan does cramp my writing. Plans can always be adjusted. The writing does still take me by surprise from time to time.
More complex story / plot theory then can be used as a tool for editing and is especially useful if a piece of fiction does not seem to be working. You can ask yourself – is the resolution satisfying, is there cause and effect, does the pace vary, is the three act structure solid?
In the end, it is up to each individual writer how they work. They must each find their own tools and rhythms. I for one like to plan – but not too rigidly.