Saturday, May 12, 2012

To plot or not to plot, that is the question.

INFINITE SKY began almost entirely without a plot. It also took two years to write, which is quite a long time for what is a fairly slight novel. I don't think this is a coincidence. Those first few months of writing were a sort of blind exploration, and pretty much none of that blind exploration made it into the final draft. Which isn't to say it wasn't useful.

Second time round, everything was different. This unwritten book was already sold! It had a deadline! Cue panic on a never-before-seen-scale. Not knowing any better, I began the blind exploration again. My head was empty after letting go of the first book, but I thought I had no time to waste. I must get started!

It was like pulling teeth. In three months I wrote 50,000 words, none of which will make it into the book. I shifted protagonist three times!  This was hard to accept at first. All those words becoming instantly back story or background? But how could I have found my lovely protagonist without the flailing? Not by plotting, I'm sure.

It seemed like total chaos, and was uncomfortable to go through, but all the characters I dicovered in this period made it into the book. What's more, they are all intriguingly different, because they are from different books. And in the end, I couldn't be happier with the protagonist I discovered last. I am so excited to tell her story!

Book three, I plan to spend a couple of months reading and living and refilling inspiration central before I begin. Then I will allow the blind flailing to commence. Because it does seem to be important. It forms the background of the story, and gives you a whole host of characters and histories and themes.

That's not to say I don't plot at all. Just that I plot late, or when I'm stuck. When there seem to be tooooo many threads to ever make a coherent story. So, like all the others, I use a mixture of plotting and making it up as I go along. Maybe with the emphasis on the latter.

So which side are you on? Plotter or pantser? Is it even possible to be one or the other? Like everything else in life, I suspect not.

Chelsey Flood writes short stories, plays and novels. Her first novel INFINITE SKY comes out with Simon and Schuster in February 2013, with a second to follow in 2014.

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