That is the question. Well, it is one of the very many questions that I ask myself whenever I’m starting a new project. But it’s the one I leave until last. And that’s mainly (all right, wholly) due to the fact that I don’t like doing it, even though I know it will make the actual writing process so much easier, with far fewer tantrums and blocks and need to make excuses (to myself) about exactly why I haven’t managed to finish just yet.
But it’s painful. I sit with my notepad and pen (my Moleskine and Lamy, if I’m being accurate here) and write ‘Chapter 1’. Then I sit for a while longer, staring at the page which is being highly uncommunicative. It’s giving me nothing. I might underline my heading. I might underline it again. And circle it. And doodle a bit, which can be tricky with a fountain pen. But nothing productive happens. Unless you like doodles, that is.
Eventually words come, pulled – dragged – from my head and then dolloped rather grumpily onto the paper. I try to have four or five bullet points for each chapter or short story, ideas that will join together to become the finished thing. Occasionally I manage this. More often I don’t. And yet, I still get stuff written.
Because I get so frustrated with attempting to plot, I instead get the laptop fired up, or draw a literal line under my doodled heading (with or without bullet points) and get to writing anyway. And I make it up as I go along. With a novel, I’ll usually have a vague idea about the beginning and the end. Purists will be horrified to discover that I often have no idea about what is going to happen in the middle, but the journey from start to finish is, for me, a lot more interesting if I don’t know where I’m going, and I have no map. It’s even worse with short stories and flash fiction – they are usually based on an image, or an opening line, and I just let the words fall from my brain to my fingers to the page. Which is exactly how this blog post was written.
In conclusion (that phrase takes me, happily, back to my school days), I know these things to be true: plotting is a wonderful idea. Plotting restricts me. Plotting would make my writing life easier and quicker. Plotting is boring.
I also know that I’ll keep trying it, just in case it ever becomes easier, or more fun. But I’m pretty sure it won’t…