To Plot or Not to Plot

To Plot or Not to Plot, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to plan

The twists and turns of the outrageous novel,

Or to take arms against the way of plotting,

And by opposing, pants it?  To write; to live…

Well, perhaps that’s not as good as Shakespeare’s original.  But like Hamlet in this scene, I am plagued by indecision.

My next novel shall soon be upon me.  (*cough* November *cough*)  And I really really want to be able to write it in 30 days.  (Or at least 50,000 words of it.)

But what if I get stuck?

Here’s what I know about my New Book so far:

  • Who the MC is (a magician)
  • What she does for a living (trains magical creatures)
  • Who she lives with (her crazy great-aunt)
  • Who her pets are (a talking unicorn and an immortal owl)
  • What a minor conflict is going to be (she can’t get any business for several months, and she doesn’t know why)
  • An opening scene/ inciting plot point

But that’s IT.  There’s so much more that I DON’T KNOW.  Such as:

  • Who the Bad Guy is (or if there is one!)
  • Why the Bad Guy is keeping my MC from getting clients
  • What’s gonna happen when the MC trains her baby dragons
  • WHAT ON EARTH HAPPENS IN CHAPTER 2
  • Why the MC’s parents are dead/ out of the picture
  • What type of Magical Government exists (think Ministry of Magic from HP)
  • What type of character arc is going to occur (like how does my MC grow up as a result of this story?)
  • Who any of the MC’s friends are (their names, their jobs in this story)
  • What the MC’s favorite color is

And the most embarrassing one?

  • What the MC’s name is

Okay, she had a name at some point, in some opening chapter scene thing, but…  I forgot her name.

So.  My question remains?  Do I plot my story?  Or do I leave it up to chance?  Do I allow myself the joy of exploring a new plot as I write, knowing that it brings with it a higher chance of getting stuck?

dreamer of far-flung dreamsFor now, yes.

Maybe I am and will always be the Pantser, the dreamer of far-flung ideas and the writer of impossible plots.

Or maybe not.

Arg, this is all so new to me!  This is the first time I’m beginning a novel with the intention of making it publishable.  The first time I’ve ever really considered the thought of plotting ahead of time.

It’s a bit scary.

But I refuse to be a plotter.  I detest the thought of outlining my novel, the thought of breaking it up into pieces before I begin bringing it to life, the thought of knowing where it ends before it begins.

So I think that I will compromise, but only a little.  I will allow myself to dream in this world, to introduce myself to the characters, to get to know the story.  But I absolutely forbid myself to see where the plot will take me.

I’ll even write myself a speech to prove it:

Sons of Notebooks, of Keyboards, my brothers!

I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.  A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our Pants and break all bonds of spontaneity.  But it is not this day!  An hour of woes and plotted novels, when the age of Pantsers comes crashing down.  But it is not this day!  This day, we WRITE!

By all that you hold dear, on this good earth, I bid you PANTS, WRITERS of the WEST!

THIS DAY (aragorn)

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3 thoughts on “To Plot or Not to Plot

  1. Lately I’ve taken to plotting everything. I have detailed outlines, character lists, setting lists, etc. Anytime someone appears, I add their name to my list. If I go somewhere new, it’s added. All of this before writing a single word.

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      • Ermmm… Yes and no. To explain my answer would be to write a reaaaaaaaaally long answer, so I’ll just say that I have several projects on the burner at the moment (some on the front and some simmering in the back), and I use NaNoWriMo now more for the deadlines (OK, I *have* to write 50K this month in order to release [insert title] by [insert date]. -Or- I *have* to edit [insert word count] by [insert date] in order to get this novel to my publisher by [insert date].) So while some of the outlines are for NaNoWriMo, most of them are just because I don’t like writing any kind of novel these days without a clear idea of where it’s going and how everything will play out. *cringes* Maybe that answered your questions? If not, I’ll probably write out a longer response via a blog post soon. 😉

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