‘To plot or not to plot?’ …. that is the question

A beginning, middle and an end

Before the days when I began to learn about story structure, I just sat down and wrote. An idea popped into my head and I was away, secretly nursing the hope that somehow I’d produce a best seller. Back then, when I used pen and paper, I was completely wrapped up in the sound of the words as they scurried across the page. Later I bashed them out on my computer keyboard, enjoying the thrill of the ride. I guess I have school English essays to thank for this. ‘Composition’ as it was called in my day, later known as ‘Creative Writing’. We were just given a title then off we went, making things up along the way. No-one had bothered to explain that a story, whether short or long, had a fundamental structure: a beginning, middle and an end.

‘Plotters’ versus ‘Pansers’

I also didn’t know that I was a type of writer called a ‘Panser’: a brave soul writing by the seat of one’s pants, hoping fervently that it would all just work out. After a while I began to realise that this approach was doomed, seeing that all my well-intentioned opuses ground to a sudden halt, one after the other, about three quarters through, that is if I even got that far. It was then that I sought advice and soon began to learn what makes a story tick. Yes – story structure. Another of my newly discovered band of writers achieve this through careful planning and the interweaving of character and plot arcs. So it was a case of ‘Plotters’ versus ‘Pansers’, I believed. But could I easily change my affiliation from one group to another?

A way to write freely

The short answer is ‘no’. As soon as I tried to plan in detail, I failed. My characters refused to cooperate, in fact they took on the quality of cardboard cut-outs, without movement or breath. Nothing worked; I was doomed once more. Until, that is, I found a compromise, a way to write freely and get to the end.

 

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