Plot it or Wing it?

Every writer has a different approach when it comes to writing a novel. On one end, some like to create intricate plot boards, planning out every scene. On the total opposite side of the spectrum, some like to totally wing it. I used to be the latter.

It seemed with every project or idea, however, I’d get to about…oh I don’t know…around 20k-30k words. I could happily type for days without stopping. Then it was like a brick wall. It was impossible to finish anything that I started. My ideas would go stale and, completely frustrated, I’d abandon the project. I finished my first full manuscript (albeit it a short manuscript at 54k words, it was finished!) in 2012 as a NaNoWriMo project. I was so thrilled to finally have completed something!

But it’s amazing how we can look back on our older work and realize how much we’ve grown as writers. People (friends and coworkers, mostly) told me how much they loved it. I look back on it now in horror. How could I ever have shown it to anyone?! It now is saved as a file in my “Writing” folder on my computer and flash drive, safely tucked away.

Just last month, I completed another manuscript. 66k words this time. I had spent well over a year working on it, in the midst of battling depressive episodes. But this novel…this one was different. It started as a simple idea. One little spark. I began writing with what I had in my head (one of these days I may post one of my early drafts compared to the final revisions), then went back and began plotting how I wanted the story to go. I didn’t have everything plotted out at first. It was just a rough, blurry idea in my head. But as the story began to take shape and my characters began to take on a life of their own, more ideas came to me. It was no less than six months after I had the original idea that I had the entire story plotted out. I invested in Scrivener, which has been an incredibly invaluable tool. I worked to flesh out my characters, taking my time to flesh them out as people.

This past month has been nothing but edits and revisions. It’s gone through four beta readers, several self-edits, and now rests in the hands of a professional editor. Once she finishes her edits, I’ll do my final revisions. Then I can really celebrate!

I would love to hear your comments! Do you prefer plotting everything out beforehand? Or are you a sit-down-and-hash-it-out kind of writer?

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2 thoughts on “Plot it or Wing it?

  1. I use to always just sit down and let the plot and characters take shape on their own (never finished one of those books). The first book I have finally finished and will published I actually plotted everything out ahead of time- of course sometimes the book changed during the course of the writing (bound to happen)- but for me, I think having a roadmap from start to finish finally helped me complete a book (and in 2.5Months).

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  2. I’ve always considered myself a planner who’s not very good at planning. I get easily frustrated when I’m not quite sure where I’m headed, but then I always feel like my ideas flow better when I’m actually writing, so… It’s hard to hit that sweet spot between the two.

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