Life in Writing
Story telling is really an art form, and like any other art, nobody likes it unless you do it right. You can have the most compelling characters on Earth combined with amazing descriptions of scenery and nobody is going to care unless the plot points are relevant, believable, and interesting. So how do you come up with that perfect plot? There are two basic schools of thought on how to come up with a plot.
1. Plot Outlining
Personally, this is the method I prefer. It involves a lot of spreadsheets and point by point outlines before you ever start writing so if you're not alright with that, this may not be your ideal method. But if you like things planned out and organized before you start writing, then you can give it a try. The way you outline the story is up to you because different things work for different people. But here are some basic ideas that work for me. Start out by figuring out what kind of characters you want. Decide their personalities and backstories. Your characters will drive your story, so your plot points need to fit them. Figure out your characters and then decide where they start out, and where you want them to end up. Then think about events you'd like to see happen in your story and decide if your character would do that thing. You'll go through a lot of trial and error before you've set up the perfect outline, but the perk is that it all happens in your head, and maybe a few pieces of paper. So there isn't a lot of time wasted on writing a story that doesn't work. If you like the idea of having a solid outline before you try to write your story, then give this method a shot. If not, then maybe you should try method number 2.
2. Discovery Writing
This style is pretty much the opposite of outlining. You invent a character and then you just start writing a story and see where it takes you. People who tend to be a little more free-spirited enjoy this method. The up-side to this style is that the end result is very character driven. Every action follows your main character's decision making which makes it believable and easy for a reader to follow. The downside is that the story can feel disconnected in other ways. External events may not feel connected, or the story may feel aimless as you wait to find a true end goal for your character to pursue.
Different styles work for different people. If you're not sure which one is best for you then just try them both and see which one you like better. At first it can be good to just try one or the other, but as you advance in your writing, don't feel pinned down to one method or the other. It's okay to make a loose outline and discovery write the rest of your story while making sure to hit certain key plot points. Whatever works for you is what you should do. The important thing is that you sit down and write.
If you found this advice interesting, and want to check out some other writing advice, try some of these posts:
4 Words to Cut Out While Editing
4 Ways to Get Through Writer's Block
4 Things to Consider When Writing a Book Blurb
Daniel M. Quilter is the author of A Soul Divided. On this blog he'll interview other authors, review books, share nerd wisdom from popular sci-fi and fantasy, and occasionally share his insights on writing. See a list of his works or see what he's working on.
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