1. WilyC
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    WilyC Member

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    Making up the plot as you go along

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by WilyC, Jun 23, 2009.

    Anyone know if this is a good method for plot creation? Are there any success stories from using this method?

    For me it's a great content developer, but I'm curious if an interesting plot will unfold. Maybe I'm just wasting my time.
     
  2. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    I do that, but I never finish anything....:p

    I suppose it depends on your writing style, if you take it too far then you'll probably end up with a meaningless jabbering mess (speaking from experience here!)
     
  3. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I've heard some writers do that - i.e., they prefer not to outline or have a clear, set-out plan before they start writing. And as long as your story ends eventually, that's fine - because afterwards, you're still going to have to go back and revise and fix it up. Personally, I don't like this method, because I like to know where I'm going, but some people like writing whatever the heck comes to their mind.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    most [if not all] fiction writers do this all the time... it doesn't mean you can't have an idea or a start in mind, when you sit down and start writing, but pretty much all fiction is made up as the writer writes it, since no one can possibly have the entire plot and all the characters and their actions in their head, before they start writing...
     
  5. AceKevin
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    AceKevin New Member

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    I've heard this method espoused by several writers, and I think it takes a fair bit of confidence. But if it produces the same quality as early Stephen King, I can only imagine it's incredibly worthwhile.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you have an idea in your head, you put it down on paper. If you have more ideas than you can keep track of, by all means jot them down so you don't lose track.

    But what is the point of writing down a detailed outline? As you write, thisngs will occur to you that fall outside your original plan. Are you going to update your outline, and then reflect those changes in the actual story?

    Why not just write the story? Let it be its own outline. You know where the story is going, You keep going over it as you write, poking holes in your plots, thinking of various "what if" scenarios.

    Let the writing itself be your outline. Don't let creating the outline be something you need to finish before you start writing; that's called procrastination.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    As I understand it, Tolkien had no idea where he was going with it when he wrote The Lord of the Rings. All he knew was that the ring had to be destroyed, but didn't know the events until he wrote them. With some exceptions, you have to know what your end goal is, but there is nothing wrong with figuring out how you get there as you go along, and changing things as you go along. I didn't know my character was going to get bitten by a snake until I got to that page.
     
  8. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I like to use the note card system. It allows me to organize things like an outline, but, at the same time, it allows me some flexibility - I can also rearrange things, put in new scenes, and make side-notes on the notecards when I need to. I think it's a good idea to have some plan when you start, but at the least you should be willing to make changes as you go along, if they are necessary.
     
  9. dagda24
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    dagda24 Member

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    I love just sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind. It allows you to be more creative than when you're working to an outline as you're not constantly worried about sticking to the path.

    Personally, I find outlined writing very constrictive. If I sit down and plan a story out I find I have less enthusiasm for writing it, because I already know how it ends.
     
  10. Scribe Rewan
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    It's incredably effective - if it's in your nature. I can't plan anything. When I write a story, I wont even have a first line, sometimes not even a theme. A lot of the time when I sit down at my computer I know nothing, I just have a feeling that there's something in me that needs to be written. And then I write a whole story. It can be incredably effective. I have a lot of trouble up in uni coz they assume you plan everything really mechanically (which is ironic for a creative writing degree) and I have written stories that needed revisions, yes, but not entirely new drafts. On one story I actually had to go back and rewrite it worse because we had to hand in two drafts with the final peice.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Cogito. I personally do not want to spend my time writing a plan when I could be writing the actual story. I get that it may make things easier - I got 70,000 words into my novel before realising everything about it was terrible and started again from scratch with only some of the same characters and the same settings - but I think it works really well.

    ^On a similar note I didn't realise I was going to kill off two of the most important characters in the book until I got to a fight scene and it just happened.
     
  11. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    This is actually not such a black-and-white topic as I had thought it would be. When I still did the "wing-it" approach, my stories ended in about 15 pages, just due to lack of filler content. Discovered that making a point of each "crisis" along the way in the story has helped tremendously. I don't go into any detail until I actually write the chapters out. I just make a note of the progress of events.

    For instance - "Chapter 5 - First assignment "Trial By Fire" was all the "planning" I put forth towards chapter 5. I have a list of 16 such notes, which is the full extent of planning I've done in terms of plot. I do have a "brainstorming" file where I initially jotted down characters, the story premise, and other details that have come to me about the story.
     
  12. Mephisto0
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    Mephisto0 Member

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    This is what I do evertime I write. I didn't know it was so uncommon.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you mean 'make it up as you write' mephisto, as i noted in my post, it's NOT uncommon... it's the way most seasoned creative writers write...
     
  14. Gamecat
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    Gamecat Member

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    I have no problems with writing on the fly for short stories, but the longer ones I've attempted I found required a bit more forward planning in order to keep them cohesive and the plot moving towards what I knew was the end.

    I've used the snow flake method to this end for one, the problem being that I now have a 3000 word plot synopsis but instead of getting on and writing it I'm still unsure of my skills and I'm still writing the shorts in an attempt to polish them.

    At the end of the day whatever works for you is fine. Don't question it, just do it I guess.
     
  15. cybrxkhan
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    I think this also depends on what you're naturally comfortable with. When it comes to mental things, I tend to be very structured and organized, almost to a fault, so I always need to write my plan down on an outline, so I know where I'm going. I still have to be open-minded, of course, willing to change things if they are necessary.

    Other people don't like being organized and structured, and that's fine. They have the advantage of being freer when developing their story, but even they have to at least have some vague idea of what they're going to do.

    All in all, I think you can't be on absolute ends of the spectrum, and that it's more of a personal preference - as long as it works, and you make a decent story in the end, that's all that matters.
     
  16. J_F
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    I often have an 'outline' formed in my head before I write a story, and I often write down random plot/character details before starting it (not as an act of procrastination, but just so I can record them in vivid detail before they slip my mind). I don't bother writing detailed outlines because, with every story I write, it doesn't result as planned, often for the better. If I were to begin a novel I might consider writing an outline, just for the sake of logic and organization, but not a short story.
     
  17. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    I'm afraid I have to disagree. Often when I write, perhaps subconciously I know where I'm going, but I can promise you a lot of the time I am not actually aware of where my stories are heading. Sometimes halfway through I'll stop and go ok, lets plan the ending a bit, but I have written stories where I have been writing so fast that I haven't had time to think where it's going, and just stop when I feel its ended :p
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Stephen King is a proponent of starting a novel with no idea where it's going, and just letting the story grow as it will.

    On the other hand, I will put on my cynical smirk and observe that much of his writing is explained by that approach.
     
  19. PrettySiren
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    PrettySiren New Member

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    I only make up the plot as I go along if it's a short story. Any thing novel-length and I have to have it laid clearly out before me.

    Mainly because, in a novel, I tend to have a lot of important threads going. If I wrote without a plan, I'd forget many of them by the end.
     
  20. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I think it depends on what kind of story you're writing. If its narrative driven, having a detailed outline probably isn't as important as you know more or less where its going, what's going to happen, what scenes you need to have and what scenes you don't.
    Character driven pieces with little narrative need much more careful planning - what scenes need to be in the piece (and why), what do you need to show about the characters, what's going to have the best effect, where should each scene go in the story, etc. If you have a definite narrative, the path of the novel is much clearer - if you are focussing less on development and narrative, you need to pay a lot more attention to the outline of your book to stop it becoming just a mess of scenes and interactions.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I suppose it also depends on what kind of memory you have. Mine is like a lint trap for all sorts of trivia, but ask me my neighbor's name and I'll hang my head sheepishly. even though we have been introduced. I go over story details so often in my head that they are practically embossed on my frontal lobes.
     
  22. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    I make outlines but it's sort of pointless. My story is so different from the original idea I had when I began writing it, that it's barely even the same book. I outline as I go, but it's constantly changing.
     
  23. WilyC
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    WilyC Member

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    Wow, I didn't expect so many replies! Looks like the opinions are quite varied, but I'm relived to learn that making it up as I go is not as uncommon as I thought it might be. I always hated writing outlines and cards and such. For me, it makes writing more like homework than an outlet for my creativity. Thank you again for all the replies it inspires me to write more!
     
  24. Ziro
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    Yeah, I also go along with the "make it up as you go along method." I have a basic idea of the story's premise, and some ideas for plot points, but I don't have any specifics thought out until I actually get to it. I feel it helps the writer better connect with the reader when not even the writer knows for sure what will happen (at least during the earlier stages of the story).
     
  25. tbeverley
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    tbeverley Senior Member

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    I've done both. I've made outlines so precise as to include single sentences, and I've sat before an empty word document and started writing with no planning.

    Outlines: I tend to alter the story to such an extent that planning a precise outline is just a waste of time.

    No Outlines: I tend to make a big mess that requires more time to clean up than it would have to have made an outline.

    Thus: I'd say that making a loose outline is best. Get a general outline that can be changed, but a little bit more structured than no outline at all.

    :)
     

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