To Plan or Not to Plan Your Narrative

What's your story

I don’t plan! There I said it. It doesn’t mean that I’m a lazy writer. It simply means that I don’t plan. If you do, then that’s fine too. Writing is creativity, and we all get creative in our own ways.

Creativity definition: The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.

The keys words there are imagination, original, and inventiveness. Creativity is unique to the individual. Whether you plan and outline, or write by the seat of your pants, it is insignificant as far as your creativity and writing ability is concerned.

I plan and organise every part of my life, except my writing. I lose creativity if I plan, and I lose realism in my story and characters. I keep a notebook on me for name ideas, character descriptions, and so on, but I don’t meticulously plan my narrative. I enjoy the ride, the surprise, and the end result.

Reasons not to plan:

  • You may try to make your characters fit your outline and not the other way around. This can lead to unbelievable characters, dialogue, and unrealistic narratives.
  • Lose creativity during the writing process. Creative writing uses the left side of your brain, whilst planning uses the right, logical side. Non- planners can leave the logic for editing, and use a spontaneous approach in their writing.
  • No constraints; there isn’t a nagging voice telling you what you should and shouldn’t be writing.
  • Plot twists, and escalating tension flow naturally , and in turn, are more believable and true to the narrative.

Reasons to plan:

  • You know where the narrative needs to go. No time will be wasted trying to get back on track if you go down a wrong tangent.
  • You know what to write. No writer’s block.
  • Can determine, and correct plot holes before you start writing.
  • Saves editing time. Planning may omit issues that non-planners spend hours editing e.g character arc flaws and continuity issues.

It doesn’t matter how you write. It just matters that you do write. I shall end with a quote by Ray Bradbury:

‘You fail only if you stop writing.’

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5 thoughts on “To Plan or Not to Plan Your Narrative

  1. I do a bit of both, but try not to overplan. If I worked out exactly what was going to happen from beginning to end I wouldn’t want to write the book because I’d be bored! It’s nice to be surprised by your characters and decide to take things in a completely different direction. That said, I always have a clear vision on the final scene (who, where and when), even if I don’t know exactly what will be said and done.
    I’m always quite in awe of people who cover a wall of their house in post-its and complex plot charts. I usually just have a few pages of random scribbles in a notebook that only I can decipher! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I sometimes don’t even know the ending until I get there haha. If I knew every detail I’d be bored too.

      My notebooks usually end up full of character ideas, time lines (I create as I go along), and dialogue I hear, and want to use at some point.

      I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to write, just a right or wrong way for each individual 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t plan, and I am a lazy writer. 😉

    Generally, what I do, is I get random pieces of dialogue and scenes in my mind as if I’m watching a movie trailer. I write those scenes into my notes, putting them in the order I think they may fit into the story (this does change sometimes, however) and then copy and paste those scenes into a chapter. I then write to those scenes, filling in everything that happens in between. Sometimes I get more material than I’d like and so some scenes spill over into the next chapter or I cut scenes if I feel they don’t fit with the story as well as I thought they would.

    An ending comes to me when it comes to me. For my second novel, I’ve had an idea of what the end scene was going to look like since I started writing, but just a couple of days ago I got an exchange of dialogue that I felt would be perfect for the ending and so I fit it in by altering the setting a bit. It wasn’t a massive change, but just enough to bring that dialogue in naturally.

    That’s basically what I do. I write scenes, order them in my notes, and that essentially becomes like a guide for me to follow. It’s like the best of both worlds: I get some planning in there, but the characters get to be spontaneous and tell me where they’re going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love hearing how other writers tackle their own writing processes. Yours is fascinating. I’ve never come across a process similar, but it sounds incredibly creative and liberating.
      For a person who loves lists and organisation, the one area I don’t plan is my narratives etc. I agree with you- let the characters be spontaneous… only sometimes they stop talking to me, and that’s when I know I’m trying to shoe horn them into a scene.

      Liked by 1 person

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