To Plot or Not

When you write a novel, one of the first decisions you need to make is how you are going to undertake to write it.  Will you

a)  Plan out each chapter in detail so that you know exactly what is going to happen from beginning to end.


b) Simply place your characters in a difficult situation and see what they do to resolve it, hence allowing the plot to evolve through the actions of the characters.

These are the two extremes and you might decide to do a little of both, but there are advantages and disadvantages of both working methods and it might help to know them before you start.

The planned approach – Advantages

A detailed plot will cut down your writing time considerably because you will always know exactly what you are going to write next.

You are also unlikely to get stuck or run out of steam halfway through.

Planning in detail means that you can also keep an eye on the structure as you work.  You will probably know how many words each scene will take and so can keep an eye on balance as you write.  I.e. make sure that one or two characters don’t run away with the action.

Planning also means that you don’t have to write the novel in chronological order.  You know what is going to happen, for example, two thirds of the way through, so therefore, you could, if you wished, write that bit first.


If you know exactly what is going to happen all the way through your novel, there is a danger that you might become bored and stop writing it.

There is also a danger that you might write all the exciting scenes first and leave the slower scenes until later – with the same result.

The Unplanned Approach – Advantages

There is nothing more exciting when writing than not knowing what your characters are going to do or say next, so you might well end up with some unexpected twists and turns of the plot that are less likely to come from a strictly planned approach.


There is a very real danger that you will get stuck because your characters have been backed into a corner from which there is no way out.

On a similar note, you might find that you get about halfway through your novel and find that you have run out plot.

If this happens, then you can often put it down to one of two reasons.

a)      You didn’t have enough plot in the first place.

b)      You haven’t developed the plot you already have.

Want to know more? Come along to How to Write Your First Novel on Saturday 13th April, in Bournemouth. Cost, just £35.00. Please email me if you’d like any more details.


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1 Response to To Plot or Not

  1. Wendy Clarke says:

    This would have been the perfect course for me but I can’t make that date. I also talked about this issue on my blog last week because I absolutely cannot plan!

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