Crafting a plot for a story can be one of the most interesting/ frustrating/ exciting parts of any writer’s experience because the plot can be anything. A prospect that is both limitless and limited. As soon as you start writing then the structure appears and as a writer you are painting the broad strokes before you colour in between the lines.
There is just as much advice out there about plot as there is about creating a character. I went to university hoping to learn as much about my ability to create a story from scratch as anything else. In the end, in my experience, what I learned is this
If you are in love with what you write, then it will be right.
Beyond the basic beginning, middle and end a plot is a contained reality. It is a map to how your character gets from A to Z within the story. It is crafted by a writer who cares enough to follow the plot through to it’s conclusion regardless of the bumps in the road.
I have found that planning, even if it is a few words scribbled into a notebook before you throw yourself in headfirst, is always a good idea. Jotting down a few steps of your plot can prove to be useful at this stage. Planning isn’t about setting yourself limits and losing creativity. It’s about having a starting point so that if your characters fall off a cliff for no good reason you can go back to the beginning and try to figure out where the plot took a wrong turn.
I don’t believe that my planning would make sense to anyone other than myself when I am about to begin a brand new story. It doesn’t stop me from sharing with fellow writers though because, there are times when an idea doesn’t make complete sense to me until I’ve talked about it. I can fill in a lot of gaps in my plot if I have someone who is willing to listen and offer a suggestion if I’m obviously, desperately scrambling for an answer. I have only once tried to plan a story chapter by chapter and I’ve never finished the plan. I didn’t find it easy by any means to break it down to that level of detail before I’d started writing the actual story but that is personal preference. I like being surprised by a turn in the plot as I’m writing and a character does something that only makes sense once the words are down on the page. A broad scope of what I am aiming to achieve is a more common start for me.
I’m not strict about starting at the very beginning of a story because if it’s not working then I have to be okay with changing it or I won’t be comfortable with writing the rest of the story at all. However, I do like to at least have an opening line that I’m happy with. I also seem to remember I once had a strong idea for the ending of a story but I could never quite figure out how the characters had all reached that point. A task for another day.
I sometimes struggle with worrying that my plots are not complex enough or that they are too complex. The worry can sometimes make a plot even more messy. In moments when I become so anxious about it that I put down my pen or walk away from the keyboard there are stories out there that can seem simple in regards to plot but if the writing is good then it can be a big reminder. Everyone gets nervous or anxious about trying to do something new. I know that I’m capable of crafting a plot that I can be proud of and even when it’s hard to remember that, there will always be another idea. Another reason to write again.