On The Perils Of Not Being Able To Plot

I have decided that I hate those writers who plot their novels in advance to the last detail; writers who have precise storyboards showing every last nuance of the story, writers who have written lengthy biographies of all their characters before they start.

Well I don’t hate them of course. I’m just very jealous. I am incapable of doing that. I start with a general idea for what the novel is going to be about, but only by the act of writing itself can I generate plot ideas, and only be writing can I find out who my characters are.

Which is all very well, but it comes with a price.

I’ve just finished a first draft of a new novel. It has come in at only 70,000 words, but that’s okay because later sections are a little skeletal: there wasn’t much point in expending a huge amount of effort on them when I know how much needs to be revised or added in the second draft because I didn’t properly plot in the first place.

Take the ending. When it came to the final chapter I suddenly discovered that my narrator needed access to a boat. Stealing a boat would be out of character, chartering one unrealistic in the context, so he is going to have to own one. For this character it is perfectly plausible that he might, but I’m going to have to write various chunks to explain this so that the boat doesn’t appear out of nowhere as a deus ex machina!

Then there’s the little matter of how the entire thrust of the novel has changed. To the extent that I had planned it, I had a main storyline and one subsidiary. Of course the subsidiary idea has proved far more fruitful, and in particular one minor character (barely more than an incidental figure on the sidelines in the early chapters) has completely taken over the book, so she will need to be introduced more thoughtfully than before.

Oh well, lots to do in the second draft.

My next novel will feature a frustrated writer who becomes a serial killer tracking down all those smug novelists who have more control over their characters and their fate.

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