What I Don’t Know About Plotting a Novel

Most of you know I am working on completing my first novel.  Right now I have about 3/4 of the first draft done, and hope to finish it by October.  With my day job and other responsibilities the time I am able to make to work on the book is limited.   My writing process isn’t always as quick as I’d like either. That’s a major reason I haven’t been posting a lot here or in other social media lately.  I figure every minute I spend on blogging is time taken from the book.

Being so close to actually finishing this project feels great.  This book, by my best count, is the ninth I’ve started since about 1993, and will be the first to reach the end.  Of course, once the first draft is complete I’ll still have a lot of work to do, going back and revising.  I already have several things in mind to change, add, and take out.

As I’ve been writing the book, characters have filled out and situations have developed I hadn’t considered originally.  It’s been fun and occasionally puzzling winding the story from one point to the rest.  This morning, while working on the increasingly intense third act, I had an idea to switch something major.  It’s a good idea.  A really good idea.  It makes the story more interesting.  It also means I’ll have more of what I’ve already written to change.

That’s okay.  Since getting serious about this project, I’ve read a lot on the craft of writing for both instruction and inspiration.  It was not exactly news to understand that writers approach their work differently.  Some create detailed outlines before beginning their draft, others simply start writing and let inspiration take them wherever it will.  Some writers, like myself, try a method somewhere in between.

I had a basic premise, a setting, and a title that suggested a story.  I worked to make sure I had a beginning and, most important, an end.  I wanted to believe I could trust luck and talent to create an ending once the story worked itself out, but since my goal was to finally — FINALLY — complete a novel, making sure I had an end relieved some of the anxiety associated with the grand project.  Several important scenes in varying degrees of specificity were imagined to fill out the middle and move the story from the beginning through to the conclusion.  It approached an outline, but was not particularly thorough.

I’ve revised a little bit as I’ve gone along.  Mainly dialogue.  I did restart the novel completely after already writing three chapters.  It was the right thing to do and the book is better for it.  I also removed and reworked a chapter far into the book.  That also made the story stronger.  Most of my revision, though, I am saving until I get the basic story written.

The idea that occurred to me today will change the plot a little.  It will require adapting passages I’ve already spent a lot of time and effort trying to get right already.  Oh, but it really is better than what I originally had planned.  Flexibility, I’ve been reminded many times, is an important quality in many circumstances.  For a writer of fiction, I think it may be necessary.

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