Is plotting worth it during the story development phase? This is a funny picture I found here. It makes me think of authors using their creative (and let’s be real…sometimes wild) ideas to plot the perfect plan to place their readers in a trance, turning page after page, skipping meals and showers to get through their books. Ha ha ha. Okay. That’s kinda gross.
But seriously, every author has his/her way of constructing a story. I’m sure no two ways are alike. I wrote my first book (which remains on my computer…I’m sure some of you authors are right there with me and have some of your own…and guess what? That’s okay.) at the end of 2012. I had no idea I wanted to be a “writer.” I was a math and science person (🙌 high five to all of my left brain people who love math and science). In fact, in college, I would look at the syllabus for each class ahead of time to see if there was a requirement to write a paper greater than five pages. At the time, five pages was like 😱! Then, I would switch classes if this was a requirement! Fast forward to 2008, I took a creative writing class on a whim at a local community college. I felt “moved” to write, but there was this voice in me whispering that you had to be born a writer. I let the voice win and shoved writing aside again.
I often run in the morning to clear my head. It’s a nice thinking time too. Well, in 2012, I was pregnant with my last child, and it hurt to run. (Okay. I used pregnancy as an excuse to sit on my butt and not exercise. I’m allowed that. Truth out.) I decided to use my mornings to sit in front of a computer and see what “inspiration” came to me. No plotting. Never read a book on writing. I did, however, read a lot. I always have. Anyhow, back to my story. I finished a really bad version of my first book in three months. You know what? All that mattered was that I finished a book! 🎉 🎊 We will call it a rough draft. That’s much better than a crappy book.
I googled, “How to publish a book.” Guess what came up? Stephenie Meyer’s website and how she wrote a book and got published in six months. Whoo hoo! 🎉 🎊 So I read her publishing process thoroughly and did the exact same thing. (Except, I wrote a crappy query.) And guess how many requests I received??? 0 (yes..that’s a zero) I’m sure you are not surprised. I would not recommend this to any aspiring writers.
What I would recommend is diving in two feet with whatever you are passionate about. After I realized the Stephenie Meyer’s approach doesn’t really work for most people, I learned what does (still learning actually). I read every book I could get a hold of on writing. Some of the books I recommend are:
- Stephen King On Writing (And no, you don’t have to buy the 50th billion anniversary edition. Great for overall writing advice.)
- James Frey How to Write a Damn Good Novel (Great before you even start a novel.)
- Stuart Horwitz Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula (Great before you start a novel.)
- June Casagrande It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences (This was a requirement in my PhD in Nursing studies. Who knew I would use it in writing YA fiction? This is good for just writing good sentences.)
- William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White The Elements of Style (I’d get the latest version. This is great for overall sentences and grammar.)
- Donald Maass Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking your Fiction to Another Level (This is written by a literary agent, so it’s cool getting his perspective.)
- Stuart Horwitz Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method (Now, that’s a long title, Stuart! This is best during the revision process.)
- Renni Browne and Dave King Self-editing for Fiction Writers (I used this one a lot for editing. It is simple, short- gotta love short, and has great examples.)
- Kirt Hickman Revising Fiction: Making Sense of the Madness (This is comparable to the Browne and King book, but I personally thought the Browne and King book was easier to follow.)
I have a more detailed review of each book on my Goodreads site. I also read as many books as I could related to the topic I was writing about. Additionally, I read books by authors I admired and YA books that piqued my interest. Did I mention that I read, read, and read? 📖 📚 😲
Writer’s conferences are great events to learn more about the craft and connect with publishers, agents, and other authors. (Yes, I attended some.) I met my critique partner and literary twin 👊, John Darryl Winston, at a writer’s conference. John doesn’t hold back on feedback and forces me (yes forces) to strive for better. You want that.
Another thing I did wrong along the way, besides thinking Stephanie Meyer’s publishing process was “normal,” was I thought I was like Stephen King. Okay, not exactly, but after I read his On Writing book, I thought it was best to not plot and let all of the creative juices flow. Well, Stephen King indicated that he doesn’t plot much, but he has a general idea of the story in his brilliant head. This gives the story room to flourish as it is written. Well, I plotted zero and had to edit a great deal (unlike my sister who is great at plotting).
If it is your first time writing a novel, maybe just sit and write to know that you can do it. As you develop your skills, plotting helps with knowing the direction of your story and character development. For me, plotting helped with my second book. It decreased my revisions. I plan to continue to plot so that I have control over my story, and it doesn’t run away from me. I’ve learned that I’m not Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King, but I did get three full requests and one partial request between my first and second books my last go around with queries (and landed a literary agent). That’s the best I’ve ever done. I still have a ton of work ahead of me and lots to learn, but I think we teach each other and keep growing as long as we take one step forward each day.
Is plotting worth it?
Do you plot?
What has your experience been when you have or have not? Do you recommend any must-see books or resources on the writing process or getting published?
Thanks for checking in! I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas 🎄 (if you celebrate it) and New Year’s 🎉 !