Today I took some time to plot my fourth novel. Personally, I’m not a fan of plotting – I still hold to that romantic idea of just sitting at the keyboard and letting it all flow. Well, guess what: it don’t work that way. Or at least it don’t work for a full novel like that. Because you’re not writing postmodern poetry, you’re writing a novel, which, anyway you twist it, recounts events (fictional or not) in some orderly fashion. And it is that narrative that will affect the “quality” of the end product.
Now, having said all that, I did write my first two novels without plotting a single line. The first was a sci-fi/fantasy epic that took three years to complete. Just a progressive story. About 180,000 words in the first draft, around 167,000 in the second. Wouldn’t exactly show it to anyone until another couple of drafts.
The next one, I just did that whole “flow on the keyboard” thing. Late nights while working all day on my PhD, I was in the right zone to just unfold the story. 70,000 words, what a big literary agent described as a “near-future psychological thriller”. So far, this is novel has brought me as close to getting an agent as I’ve ever been. You can click on the Shark Badge on the sidebar and find out more about it.
Thrid novel, I plotted the whole thing. Came to a point where I just couldn’t trudge along. I spent two straight days writing an elaborate, 3,000-word plot. Then I returned to the actual novel, wrote one phrase – just one – and didn’t follow a single point of my precious plot. Result? Much better – in my opinion – story and message (yes, I fit those in too).
And that’s what I actually like about plotting my novels (I never do it for my short stories). I can stick to it, sure, but the real boon is that, as I write, new ideas unfurl in my mind. Kind of like a mental/creative explosion.
So, advice from an – as yet?- unpublished novelist? Plot it. Before you commit to writing your precious, well-constructed phrases and wordings that the whole world “just has to read” (come on, you know what I’m talking about – we’re all friends here), try plotting it out. Either way, it’ll make for a better novel.
Oh, and I’m still looking for an agent. Hint.