Saturday, February 20, 2010

Planning the end from the beginning

I've lost confidence in my ability to find my way through a story without mapping it out first.

I used to enjoy inventing characters and then trusting them to lead me through their stories. But now I've been burned by several of these characters, who have led me on convoluted journeys to dead ends.


Now I find I have to take over, and plan the stories out myself - from the first step to the final destination. And rather than invest too heavily in writing an unmapped story, I will only write whose ending I know and like.

The question I haven't yet been able to answer is, does this kind of cautious writing stifle creativity?


  1. I find great enjoyment in mapping out stories before hand, especially if I know they are going to be longer or have several story lines. I sort of consider it like writing the entire story in one sentence snip-its.

    The only time I feel like it's stifling is if I'm to a lagging point in the story, but this would happen regardless. Obviously there are parts of a story that are there because they have to be and parts that are SO much fun to write.

    Outlines are not for everyone. And it doesn't have to be all or nothing. You could plan out just the basics of the story so you know where you are going and not have a ridged structure for the entire thing.

  2. I've really enjoyed my current attempt at writing with an outline, and I feel that its something I'm definitely going to do again.

    The only problem I've ran into with it so far is the way my characters came to life. This certainly isn't a bad thing in and of itself, its just not a lot of fun when they turn out to be smart enough to figure out a plot twist that is pretty essential to the story.

    Though it certainly is good exercise as to figuring out how to get around that and still have them do what I want. Definitely a good exercise in motivation.

  3. This is actually something that I've been dealing with as of late. For my current WIP I was just letting the characters guide me, but they've led me into a scary alleyway from which I cannot escape. Time to do some serious backpedaling and then re-planning. hah

    I'm not sure that it stifles creativity. From what I can figure, the plans can help, but I think if one of your characters does something that doesn't necessarily fit in with your predetermined plan that's ok. Just go with it, and re-plan once that flight of fancy has passed. :)

  4. All my characters and their actions are decided because they are based on real people and events. The problem I do have is how to arrange how everything plays out, and what to include and leave out. It's really difficult for me and time consuming. I'm not such a great writer. It is only through some intense revision work that my story has become somewhat decent.

    In any event I made an outline too. It really does help. It pushes me along towards where I want to go. Plus it allows me to write the chapters in any order, not that I stray from the chronological path too often.

    I don't think it stifles creativity either. Just because you have an outline does not mean you have to follow it to a T. If a better idea later comes up it can be incorporated too.

  5. I have a basic idea of the story, and I know the ending. Once I figure out how to start, it's a simple matter of going from point A to point B, except when it isn't. I'm always taking detours, or changing the ending.

    Just don't give up and you'll get there.

  6. Hell no! I map every step of the way with my novel, and I still get moments of insight, serendipty and just plain old wow. Mapping just means you take fewer wrong turns ;)


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