Alright, I admit the title is a bit melodramatic… I’ll try to warn you when I’m going to do that again. Anyway.
Recently, in the last year, I have come to understand the importance of outlining and plotting out books and more specifically series of books. A lot of upfront work and thinking, I know. Stephan King, who I admire and whose Dark Tower series passed on to me my love of epic fiction, writes off-the-cuff. I tried that with one book… it was difficult and at times I got stuck trying to figure out what a character’s next move would be. Talk about writer’s block.
And yes, writer’s block does exist. In short, to me the phenomenon often dismissed as rubbish is this: writer’s block is when a writer gets in his or her own way. We think too much and our lake of creativity gets flooded, becoming too murky and very hard to wade through. A mess.
Planning circumvents that natural disaster in the writing process. At least for me.
Plotting out key points in the narrative, what events are to take place, how the twists and turns are going to be initiated and where, is important. This allows a writer to figure out what he or she wants to take place in any given novel. Sometimes these ideas are random (more notes than an ordered web working). Other times they go in sequential order, a ladder of sorts. Either way, taking those key drivers of the plot and putting them into a chapter break down is helpful. Now don’t start believing I’m trying to ram a steel pole into the flexible, creative back of storytelling. A good writer just uses this map and can/will deviate where necessary to flesh out and build up the story. I did this for my latest novel/series, Gilead. To illustrate my point, I planned out thirty-three chapters and ended up with forty-eight. I knew where I wanted to go, the places to stop along the road, but I ended up going to visit the World’s Largest Ball of String and the Amazing Maze of Cheese too (the road signs were just too tempting to pass up!).
Another plus to outlining the plot and narrative… writers can do this for an entire series. To be able to know specific events that take place two, three, ten, twenty books down the line is an advantage. Planning out a series from the beginning allows the writer to insert hints or teases as to plot points and character developments and twists which will pop up later down the narrative timeline. In most cases, having a clear vision even makes the teases subtle and less obvious to bring around a sucker punch now and then… the writer has physic powers and shouldn’t use them wisely (insert evil laugh here). Oh, the reader saw the swing coming, he or she just didn’t see the signs clearly.
Last point about planning and plotting: mythology and characters. Being able to sit down and sketch out the details of the world, how magics work, who is who, the geography, the history and relationships, etc. makes references and continuity that much simpler. Being able to refer back to these notes when writing future installment is also another perk of the entire planning and plotting mad scheme (insert evil laugh here).
That’s it for me. See you again soon! Cheers!