Hiya, great blog, is it always best to have a story plotted out first? As in, would it make it more difficult to start a story with no idea where it's going and see what happens?
Thank you for the compliment!
Whether or not to plot beforehand, and how in-depth a story is planned out first, is unique to the writer, and there’s no one way to do it. Some people plot everything down to the scenes and some people just start with the main idea and run with it.
There are pros and cons to both.
Some people find planning out the entire story to be too constricting. Knowing the ending bores them, and may make them feel like the story is already told, and not worth looking into anymore. Sometimes, it’s hard to motivate yourself to write thousands of words about something you yourself already wrote out in an outline. There’s no more surprise or discovery in it.
On the other hand, plotting first can make for a less confusing rough draft. It can also keep you on track with the story, especially on those days when you’re not motivated to figure out what to write next. Plotting can also be much less static than many people seem to think.
Picking an idea and running with it, learning the characters as you go and then deciding what they would do and what should happen around them, is another perfectly good way to write. It allows freedom, excitement, and discovery. It sets your writing brain free and can result in amazing ideas.
However, this kind of writing results in messy drafts, info dumps that have to be trimmed out, and long ramblings that often don’t follow the plot or character arcs meant to be in the story.
It can be confusing to read as well, as once you begin to edit you might not even remember where a thread was supposed to be going and if all of your threads end up a little under-developed, it might even be hard to decide which ones to keep, what they have in common in the first place, and what the actual story was supposed to be about.
Once people understand the pros and cons of both polar-opposite methods, a lot of people cobble together their own way of plotting and end up with something in between.
I can’t tell you exactly what will work for you, but I know what methods I use.
For the overall story, I am a huge fan of the seven-point method, which you can read about here. Setting just seven points ensures your story will have a natural arc while also giving you leeway everywhere else.
For that ‘everywhere else’ I love using problem/solution. This method is understanding your character and their world well enough to understand the inherent problems that can build up around them. You then pick a problem to have the character deal with first and allow them to work through a solution. That solution then brings about another problem for which they then find another solution.
This should go on and on throughout your story, in subplots and in the main plot. Remember though, there should of course be some downtime between problems in order to keep your tension ebbing and flowing.
If you’re curious about learning different ways to outline, there’s tons of advice out there, too! If you do decide to put together your own way of plotting, my advice would be to read all that you can about outlining and plot structure.
Your brain will hold onto what it likes and discard what it doesn’t. With a bit of trial and error and curiosity about the process, you’ll be able to find your own way through outlining!
I hope this was helpful! If you have any more questions let me know.