How to write a book can be a hotly contested topic. Formal training dictates that outlining is a necessity of the craft, while authors often object to the practice, saying that plotting a novel takes all of the fun and creativity out of the practice.
So which path is best? M.J. Blehart has strong opinions on the subject. He ”pantsed” his first series but is now a dedicated plotter. Pantsing is the practice of writing without an outline, and comes from the term “writing by the seat of your pants” — though personally, we prefer the term discovery writing.
It’s a common practice among novelists. Often, the author doesn’t know where a story will go (or how it will end) until they write the scenes. This method of creation can sometimes lead to brilliant storytelling — but can also end in disaster, with the author writing himself or herself into a dead end or a meandering plot that doesn’t seem to have a purpose.
We brought M.J. onto First Draft Friday to hear his thoughts on the subject and to explore his methods of plotting. Here are a few takeaways from our chat:
Plotting isn’t set in stone
Just because your writing moves down a path for your story to take, if the characters and your creative impulses veer off path, don’t be afraid to follow them and see what happens!
Plots can be as simple or detailed as you want them to be
The beats within a scene can be one-line bullet points, while other can take up 1-2 pages and include lines of dialogue, setting details and backstory.
Plotting is especially important when writing a series
The more planning and preparation of the plot, the more complex ideas you can introduce, with proper placement and timing of red herrings, foreshadowing and subplot execution.
Watch our discussion in the video chat above. Click above to watch it, or listen to the podcast.