Monday, November 1, 2010

To Plot or Not to Plot your Novel

Many novelists worry about plot and go through elaborate outlines. My own experience with plot produced  one certainty...if I outline it then I surely go off my outline. On my second novel, Tobacco Sticks, I used a large notebook to hold the voluminous outlines that took place over years and years of planning the book. I really thought that I could just map the novel out, all I would have to do is connet the dots. When the day came to begin writing I ended up going off my outline immediately.

The worst thing was I cut the first fifty pages of my carefully plotted novel. Then I decided I didn't like all the characters I had so carefully researched, complete with genealogical histories. So I cut some of them and swung the focus around to my narrator. The book immediately went off the outline again as the nexus of the plot changed and what I thought was the central crime of the novel became ancillary to a much deeper crime. So I crossed out and changed and made arrows and scribbled out huge sections of my outline.

Then the novel began to really run into trouble once I passed page seven hundred. I did not plan on War and Peace and that was where I was headed. So I hastily cut a lot of back story and took a run for the end. When I finished the book it did not resemble my outline except that some of the characters I started with made it to the end. So I threw out the outline and came up with a much more fluid approach to the book. I would simply outline the scene for the next day in a notebook and not go beyond that. This turned out to be the perfect solution and  one that I continue with today. I know what I am going to write the next day and it allows for the twists and turns of any good book. So much for plot.

http://www.billhazelgrove.com/
His new novel Rocket Man will be out in January.

Books by William Hazelgrove