Welcome to Writing Wednesday! It occurred to me that, even though I introduced last week’s post on diversity by noting that I actually hadn’t talked much about the craft of writing, that I didn’t really talk about it last week either. Whoops. So today, I’m going to talk briefly about a part of the craft that’s been giving me a real headache lately: plot.
In theory, plot should be the most basic element of a story, but for myself and a lot of other writers, it really isn’t. I’m technically “a plotter”–as opposed to a “pantser”, or someone who goes into writing relatively blind instead of outlining. I usually go into each manuscript with a loose outline that nonetheless gives a pretty basic list of events from beginning to end.
I only realized really recently that I struggle with plot. The main reason I outline is that whenever I first start brainstorming a new project, I very quickly come up with a climax and/or ending. Hence, the need for a rough roadmap to get there. My problem is that I’m a lot better at coming up with explosive scenes or incidents than I am at actually stringing them together in a natural, satisfying fashion. Add that to another weakness that I’ve been working on, somewhat painfully–coming up with too many damn characters–and you get a plotter who isn’t good at plotting.
I’m someone who believes that, if a story is truly well told, the literal plot often doesn’t matter all that much. I’m not someone who thinks a plot hole automatically ruins a work unless it truly sticks out or betrays shoddy construction. I also dislike structure and Save the Cat type formulas. That being said, I do have an appreciation for excellent plotting. Besides the obvious mysteries like Death on the Nile, where plotting is really crucial, I see how intricate plotting is really important to something like Wuthering Heights, one of my favorite books ever, even if the plot itself is nowhere near the main joy of that masterpiece. Since I’m writing MG, I recently realized that it would be okay to streamline my plot a little. I just reread Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for winter quarter’s Children’s Lit class, and rereading made me really marvel at how well the plot was constructed.
Yesterday I finally started recalibrating my WIP. I’m planning to produce a new, much more well constructed outline before diving into my second round of revisions. It’s been brutal. I cut some characters, modified major scenes, and experimented with a whole new trajectory. I suspect this is only the beginning of my Draft 3 headache, but I also suspect it’ll be much stronger for it.
What are your feelings about plot? Do you struggle with plotting? Let me know in the comments!