Trying To Write Without A Plan

It’s too late for an early night. I’ve been trying to write my novel.

What started off as a few paragraphs of what I wanted to be dreamlike prose, has turned into a forced, meandering effort. I don’t know what to write. I do know what I want to happen. But how do my characters get from where they are to where I want them to be? How do I make them get there? I have no structure!

If I try anything like a story arc or a character sheet, it will undoubtedly kill the story. That has happened before, with an embarrassing attempt that I don’t even want to think of as an attempt. Writing character profiles does not work for me. Last time I tried to do that (in a previous story) my characters ended up as cliches. No, not even cliches, they were parodies of cliches. It was like… Have you seen The Breakfast Club? If so, you know how each teenager has a set “personality type” at the beginning? Well, all my characters were like an exaggerated version of that. I introduced quite a few characters at once, actually, so it was mildly confusing. Anyway, my point is that everything they said was directly linked to who they were as a person. Everything. Imagine that. It was like each sentence they said reflected their role. It was far, far beyond realistic.

People in real life don’t even have set roles. Especially not kids. Those characters were kids, and I decided that one of them would be obsessed with history, and that it would be her main interest, and that whatever she said would relate to that. Another character was the “I don’t know who I am” one, who, as a result of her lack of a defining philosophy, laterΒ  went on to join the baddies. I did not even get to the part where she joined the baddies. Another thing I should add is that the kids did not have realistic day-to-day lives.

My one excuse is that I was thirteen when I was writing that. The problem with the excuse is that most thirteen-year-olds would not write something so lacking creativity and quality. What that illustrates is that I am unable to work from a character sheet that I’ve written with a list of traits and a backstory for each figure; I find it much easier to contain this information in my mind.

Having said that, this novel is stalling. I will keep writing, though. The book has no choice but to exist.



12 thoughts on “Trying To Write Without A Plan

  1. “But how do my characters get from where they are to where I want them to be? How do I make them get there?”

    The easy and difficult answer is: You don’t.

    Don’t make your characters do anything. Let them decide what they want to do, what they want to say. Let them tell you these things. After a while, they’ll show you their personalities, their quirks, how they interact with each other. The cool thing is figuring out why. I’ve had many instances in which a character would do or say something I didn’t expect, forcing me to ask, “Why?” Thinking about my characters’ choices of words and actions helps me to see who they are and that helps them to come through clearer.

    The way I write is to simply picture scenes in my head, like a movie trailer. I get pieces of dialogue, sometimes exchanges of dialogue between characters, and I write it all down, putting it all into a “Notes” document in the order I think the book will go. Sometimes it goes exactly in the order I thought, sometimes it doesn’t (and sometimes I don’t even use certain scenes because they end up not fitting with the flow of the story). But the point is that I get ideas for scenes, get them into an order, and then copy and paste a certain number of scenes into what I think will be a chapter. Once I do that, I write to each scene, simply filling in the blanks with the dialogue and actions from those scenes serving as the foundation for who my characters are and how they behave throughout the story. Essentially, I allow the characters, in those scenes I initially get, to tell me who they are and what they want to do.

    So get your brain out of the way (But do it nicely because you might need it later.) and let your characters do the storytelling. You’ll find that they’ll even surprise you. For example, when I was writing earlier today, my protagonist, Kara, did something that I not only didn’t expect she would do, but something that I thought she would never do. But she wanted to do it, so I wrote it, and it worked out very well, flowing into the next scene I had in my notes.

    Anyway, I hope that helped and I wish you all the best with your writing.

    By the way, if you’re writing character parodies, maybe it’s for a reason. Maybe if you stay on that road, it’ll lead you to something more. That’s actually how I started my first novel. It began as an idea to take sci-fi movie cliches and just point them out humorously. And while I do still have cliches in my novels that Kara, who’s a writer herself, is more than happy to point out (and sometimes insult me while doing it), the story became so much more than that first, simple idea. So rather than trying to avoid cliches and parodies, maybe you should start with them and see where that leads. What you’re writing now will likely change by leaps and bounds sometime down the line anyway.

    Remember, writing is a living being. It’s born, it’s nurtured, it grows, and it changes. And all the while, you get to create memories with it. So just relax and have fun, and let it be what it wants to be. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Let your characters LIVE, themselves. Don’t write when you NEED to: write when you want to. Let inspiration come to you, rather than forcing it. That’s what I’m trying to do. Also, I would LOVE to read it:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes KEEP writing! I’m writing a novel and if I can do it, you can too. Just go with the flow. Act as if you’re the characters. What would they do? I’m sure it’s going to be amazing! You should post some snippets on your blog cause we’d love to read it! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know exactly how you feel, let the characters take you through the story πŸ™‚ That’s what I find works sometimes; just get inside their heads and be them while writing. But keep writing, I’m sure you’ll get it! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kate,
      Thank you for the encouragement/advice, and for reading my post! I really appreciate it. I read your lovely Christmas post but couldn’t find a Like button, so I’ll just tell you: Merry Christmas πŸ™‚
      – Jamila


      • No problem at all, good luck with your writing!
        Aw thanks so much! I’ll have a look and see if it has one. I’m new to blogging, so apologies about that!! Thanks so much though!! I appreciate that πŸ™‚ Happy Christmas to you too! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

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