Saturday, 24 January 2009

Off Plan

One thing I've been noticing about working through a reasonably full plan of something is that, no matter how well you think you've got it planned out, no matter how much you swear that this time you'll do it by the outline that you've got, when it comes to the actual writing bit, things end up having to be changed.

Partly, that's probably because my plans are never as perfect as I think. I get the pacing wrong, or I jump about too much. They're things that I should be able to fix at the planning stage, but always look different once the words are down on the page.

Partly, it comes down to a question of creating tension/interest in each scene. Sometimes, a segment might serve the whole perfectly, but when you're talking about a thousand words or so, it has to be something as well as simply adding something, if you see what I mean.

Mostly, of course, it's because I'm inclined to get carried away. Or I figure out a great way of achieving the main goal of a scene, but it requires me to set things up further back, thus pulling things out of shape.

So, should I be doing this? Should I be improvising like this, or should I accept that plans are occasionally there to be stuck to.


Peter said...

The plan is a guideline, not a definition. I begin with only the vaguest of plans when I begin, and find that my characters evolve in ways I never expected. I both like this and dread it. I love it because of the feeling of creation involved... I dread it because leaves me wanting for foreshadowing when I read the end, and fix not always easily made.

Still.. I feel if you stick too closely to the plan, it sometimes necessitates that you abandon your creativity...


Lauren said...

I found you on the blog-o-sphere and I wanted to add my two cents to your post.

I think that there is no real way to be sure on the pacing when you are outlining. Sometimes the prose comes out super tense so you need a little more calm action and at others when you see how long a scene took you realize that your character needs a bit more drama in his/her life.

Also, you are deeper into the story or have simply had more time to think about it as you are writing. Going back and adding foreshadowing or a new level to what you are working on is a good thing.

The thing is, if plans were there to be totally stuck to, we'd never have through rewrites or edits where our CP or agent tells us to fix critical flaws in our work. We'd have to throw it out and do a different book that does work and that doesn't always happen (sometimes if the problems are too endemic, it will of course, but sometimes with major rewrites the novel is salvageable). Perhaps you are just seeing those flaws real time and saving your self from having to go back and add it to the whole thing (verses just half of it).

So go off the outline if you are adding substantial additional threads. You are probably saving yourself from being requested to do it later (or from having the whole thing not stack up).

It's your instinct. Follow it :)