How Well Do You Plan Your Plot?

Recently, I ran across a meme on another author’s page that I follow. The meme was about the different types of writers and how well they plan the plots of their stories before writing (see meme below).

Writing meme

This meme got me thinking about my own writing style and which of these 3 options applied to my plots. After careful consideration, I’d have to say that my writing is more in tune with option #2, with maybe a hint of #3 lurking in the shadows ready to pounce if it senses any weakness.

When I start a book, I typically have a high-level concept of what I want the book to be about, some ideas around key characters, the world it needs to take place within, and maybe how the ending will play out. Of course, all of these things are subject to change though as the story evolves when I start writing. 

A prime example of this is The Ascension Legacy series that I wrote and continue to release entries for this epic tale. When I first started writing the series, I had planned on more races, more pieces of armor, and more battles. However, once I started writing it became obvious that my overly ambitious plans would create a lot of redundancy in storytelling. Linking together so many storylines and connecting them to the overarching plot wasn’t a daunting task but one that bred too much risk for lazy, repetitive writing that could drag down the quality of the content. Fearful of my own lack of writing experience failing in completing the task successfully, I opted to reduce the scope of the series. I removed a couple of races that I felt weren’t fully realized yet in both the story and my thoughts. Also, I removed pieces of the plot connected to those races which would allow me to focus on the remaining races and plot points more easily.

All of these revisions ultimately meant that not only did the story change but also the plot. The plot had to change and be adapted to fit the new reduced scope of races and elements. Every thought, every idea, every inspiration up to that point had been based on the larger story that no longer was being told. This of course also meant that each word written after that decision was largely done in uncharted territory. The plot literally unfolded and presented itself to me as I continued to write. Often times, what I wrote in one chapter would mold what would happen in the next, which also impacted the chapter that would follow it. And so on. 

All in all, what had started out as a 4 book epic series turned into a 6 book epic series. The original plan was too bold, too ambitious, too “familiar” in terms of repetitive or similar plot lines. Instead of the original high-level plot, I ended up with an evolving plot that developed as I wrote. Multiple twists were considered along the way but those options were reduced as the plot evolved, making some of them invalid, some unbelievable, and others almost insulting to the reader. In the end, the plot revealed itself to me around the world I created through my writing. The conclusion of the series seemed fitting and exciting while keeping the door to the world I had imagined opened to future exploration.

With many of my other works, my writing has followed similar trajectories. My plots evolve as I write. Inspirations hit in waves and characters behave and react as those inspirations are reflected in the story. As characters react, sometimes those reactions influence the plot and it changes, twists, and/or evolves around the characters and their actions. My writing is usually very fluid, just as real life is fluid.

What about you? Do you plan things out in advance or do you adapt as life evolves around you?

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