plot—planned or spontaneous? let’s call this part one

I’m either very, very brave…


…or very, very stupid.


I’ve just finished chapter seventeen of my WIP. It’s was a big son-of-a-wookie. Originally 2100 words, I managed to whittle it down to 2255. (!!!) What’s next? Why, chapter 18, of course. Duh!

Oh. You want to know what’s going to go in chapter 18.

Absolutely no clue.

Now, before you HAVE A FREAK OUT, I never know what’s going to go in the next chapter. I know where my WIP is going, I generally know where it’s going to end up, but I don’t know how it’s going to get there. And I like it that way.


Last week, while I was waiting for the orthopedist to put his unbearably cold mitts on my bum knee, I realized something about the denouement of my WIP that I hadn’t before. (I don’t like it, but that’s the way it’s got to happen.) If I had the thing already all mapped out, it would have been a lot harder for me to think “outside the box” and come up with my extremely brilliant plot point. And even harder to change something I had already worked into a detailed outline.

I’ve heard/read/made up people who say they’re “afraid” to proceed with their writing without a plan.  Heck, where’s the fun in that?  I suspect  people who say they hate writing but love having written might have taken all the joy out of their discovery process by planning their masterpiece within an inch of its life.

Don’t be so afraid of hitting a wall that you take the same four-lane highway every hack does.  Take the backroads, the country lanes.  Machete your way through the jungle.  That’s where you’re going to find the treasure.

Yeah, I love a metaphor.


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on July 23, 2009, in writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ve never worked with an outline, or even had any real idea what would happen next. (And the few scenes I did plan out ahead were much harder to write and required more revision.)

    However, I’ve got another question for you – what do you do if you’re not a planner, and you have a story that’s (God forbid) more plotted? Take my current WIP. It requires world building, has an ending, has the potential for an epicish story arc, has several scenes just waiting to be written, and is generally plotting itself out in my head before I can get it on paper. It makes the writing much, much slower (like, I’m supposed to be writing now, heh heh), and requires the sorting out of various story threads so my reader isn’t either lost or unwilling to buy it.

    So, is it enough not to know where the scene is going, or how the plot elements will mix? Or does the most freedom come from having an open storyline with no plot at all?

  2. Picture this:

    Momma from the old Carol Burnett show, hands on hips:

    “Well, how the HELL should I know!”

    Anyone else out there have something more helpful for Tessa?

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