On Plotting

Nguyen - On PlottingI’ve always been more of a planner than a “fly by the seat of my pants” type of writer. But what I’ve been trying to do lately is mix up my writing process a bit. Instead of meticulously plotting out the events of a story, what’s been freeing and productive is just writing without even thinking. However, for someone like me who over-analyzes things, I sometimes get stuck at a blank page without an outline to follow.

My adviser, Jane McCafferty, has been helpful in giving me simple prompts or details to include in my story, possibly sparking a creative idea. This has worked really well. It allows me enough freedom to do what I want while also giving me a place to start. She’ll just give me a simple prompt like “Write me a story where a character takes home an injured animal and the events that ensue.” And then, I’m off on my way.

It’s been a lot of fun getting to actually explore the world and characters that I’ve created without thinking about creating a neat and tidy ending or making a certain “point.” The entire story might be awful in the end, and though it will get heavily edited to the extent that maybe only a few original sentences remain, I think I’ve grown comfortable with the idea that writing is a continuous process. By allowing myself to truly explore during this process, I’ve led myself down certain paths I may have never considered, plot-wise and character-wise. My story may start out following one character when eventually, I find that the plot has led me toward his brother’s story instead. That’s a great and unexpected surprise. Hoping to strike a pot of gold, I’m trying to meander and get distracted by side-stories more often. Of course, I still love outlines and notes for organizing my plot, but sometimes, when outlines get stale and I feel stuck in a story, changing my routine can clear up new roads to take.

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