The Benefits of Plotting and Outlining Your Writing
Writers have a variety of ways that they get into their writing. Some people just start going and are affectionately referred to as Pantsers. Others have a basic idea with a few plot points in mind and sometimes end up faltering along the way.
If either of those options work for you as you get into your book, excellent.
If you're like me and start writing without a fully fleshed out plot and end up falling off or getting blocked along the way, let's talk about plotting!
So, there are two different ways to plot. The first being that you actually sit down and build a plot for your story. The other way is with outlining. Both are good ideas before sitting down and writing your book, or to get into if you find yourself stuck somewhere in your story.
The difference between a plot and an outline is the length and how you write it out. Outlines are typically shorter than plots, with some being only a paragraph long and having only the basic beginning, middle, and end mapped out.
A plot is usually fashioned into a list and states as many details of your story in chronological order from beginning to end. You may even scale beyond the timeline of your book for scope and character reference.
The key to making a good plot is to bring in the details. The more you know about the direction of your story, the less likely you are to run into writer's block later.
A commonly asked question is: When do I have enough plot material?
The answer to that varies, but I would say the best response is if you have enough that you could separate everything into chapters, and that at least a handful of plot points end up in each one to start you off. Ideally, you want to have all of your major story arcs and character directions covered.
Another common question asks, "What if a new plot point comes up after I've already started writing?"
I always have to smile when people ask that. It's funny to me how set writers become with their work that they become inflexible enough to ask something like that. If you have something come up that will ultimately enrich your story and make it that much better, no matter what you need to move around, you should add it in.
What you should not do when plotting is try to add dialogue. Unless it's a truly clever line, dialogue can be left until you actually sit down to start writing. Don't try to overwhelm yourself with information you do not need, yet.
Do go in and make sure that all of your characters have some effect on the main characters and the plot. If you do not see a character doing anything to impact the timeline, that character should be changed or removed because they are not integral to your story otherwise.
At the end of the day, the benefits of plotting your story come down to how much you want to breeze through your drafts and come out with a richer, more well-rounded book. A good plot to start will likely cut out a draft or two in your process and get you ahead of the game.
Ultimately, however you get your book finished is the way to go. Just keep writing!
Lexi Mohney is a self published author and a book coach living in Ann Arbor, MI. Throughout her writing and coaching career, she's lived by the motto of courage and worked with her own coaches, groups, and support system to see her Big Audacious Dreams come true so she can help others achieve success, too. Her first published piece is a finalist in the 7th Annual Bisexual Book Awards, and she is in the process of querying agents for her latest novel, Soulkind, which is the first in the Soul Hunter Series. For any and all questions pertaining to her work, contact her through her website or find her on social media.