Monday, October 6, 2014

HEAD DESK: Can you write without a plan? What's your process?

We know this isn't
 an author like me,
because he's wearing a suit,
not a robe and slippers.
But, his desk looks like mine.
 HEAD DESK moments. Can you write without a plan? Well that's a good question.
Sure. I guess. But can you finish the book without a plan ? is a better question. Every book I've written started with a spark of an idea, an impression of
a scent or vision or emotion. Hmm, one of my senses was involved. Then it evolved with a variety of scenes and characters.
I remembered I needed conflict to challenge these people in their everyday world. I gave them that. I gave them a background and a growth arc, and still while writing, at the 75% mark in my books I stuttered to a stop. I knew the end, or  so I thought. Now how to get there. Sounds simple enough, right? But the essential link wasn't there. 
The characters were right there, in place. They encountered the final conflict...
Ah, perhaps this is the problem. Doubt?
Have I truly arrived at the final conflict? Will my characters find a way to resolve it satisfactorily for the reader? Will it be exciting? Will it wrench the heart and tie the readers' insides in knots before the satisfying conclusion. Can I create the imaginary stairway that will entice the reader to take that leap of faith and make a run for the finish line? Dive in--fight the battle with the characters?
Good grief! At my three quarter mark I stop and mull over everything before moving to the conclusion. This is where I determine if I can tie up all my loose ends, where I question the story's continuity. After writing all this, will I be able to transit the life my characters had before to what is about to happen to them. And then, will there be a happily ever after?
I'm learning that planning plays a big part in writing, and even if you successfully write by the seat of your pants, you probably have the plan in your head all along. You see the story all the way through--lucky you--step by step, scene by scene. I get stalled because I'm still planning in my head when I start--seeing changes in my mind at that elusive creative moment right before I wake, instead of working them all out on paper or keyboard early on. There's a lot to be said for a detailed synopsis. Writing it before instead of after suddenly makes sense. If you decide to change something along the way, go back to the synopsis and work the changes out there. It'll be easier than doing a major rewrite on the novel.
 In conclusion, every author has his/her own methods and processes. What works for me may not work for you, and so also the reverse is true. Will you share your process? Have you encountered problems and found solutions to deal with them?


  1. One of my favourite authors, Jack L Chalker, said he wrote his last chapter first.

    1. I think half my problem is writing the last chapter first. LOL

  2. I know of authors who have written the ending first, then worked backwards. Good post, Eliza. Thanks.

    1. Glad you liked it, Angela! I do know my concept first but I usually write the end and the beginning before I write that mid section.

  3. I always know the end and then I write plot points that will get me there. I'm half a plotter and half a pantser.

    1. Great process, Susan, and I think that is what works best for me, too. I start of pantsing and end up plotting, when it probably would be better if I reversed that process.

  4. Hmm, interesting question.

    Think of a story as being like a tower game. The tower is made of blocks, which can be singly removed and placed on the top of the tower to make it taller.

    When you get to that 75% mark, the tower is starting to look a bit wobbly. Have you moved too much around, are you stretching your continuity a bit too far?

    The test is to take something away and see if it breaks the continuity completely. If it does, then maybe that's a weak point which you can work on.

    Or, you can write something outside the timeframe of the story to test the continuity, like an event from a character's childhood. If things match up when you read through the relevant parts of your story, then you're in business.

    A plan is a good thing to have, but it's equally good to have the tools and tests to see if it is still relevant.

    1. Great analogy. I actually think this may help. Thanks!


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