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Write with a plan, but don’t plan the details

I’ve always sweated over the writing advice from various sources. Some recommend that I should plot out my story. Others say that kills spontaneity. Start with a character, and throw him into a situation… your story will emerge. Some say just start writing, it will come to you. Others disagree. How long and hard do you want to revise, they ask testily, you’re better off with a plot.

After writing like a crazy-bum over the past month, I have realized it is different for different writers, because we are all different people.

Some of us are control freaks, so naturally we feel insecure without a plan. A lot of us are happy-go-lucky customers, so they just like getting into the swing of things. And then you have the moderate ones, like me, who have a skeleton plan. They then flesh it out as they go, adding and subtracting details, changing little of the bone structure, but giving full rein to their imagination while fleshing out the skeleton.

It was a relief to discover for myself that there is no one formula for writing. What works for me may not work for you and vice-versa. In the beginning, we just have to keep writing, making sure we write every day, till we hit upon what works for us as individual writers.

We can learn techniques from books, we can learn how to write great characters or dialog, or plot brilliantly, but it is only with practice that we can figure out just what equation and process works out for us as writing individuals.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • I agree that experience leads the way.

  • Thank you for this reminder. I prefer outlining, but sometimes get caught up in outlining the details. Then when my characters want to go in a different direction than my outline requires, I get all stressed out. I am reminded by you that a skeleton outline is best for me… it is obvious that my characters don’t like being told what to do!

  • Damyanti says:

    Thanks Payton, for your comment, and your (huge) compliment.

    The qualities in the photograph may also have a lot to do with the way it was taken by my husband 🙂

  • I have been meaning to compliment you Damyanti for some time on how beautiful you are. That thumbnail in sepia under ‘About the Blog’ highlights the abundance of feminine qualities your face and head radiate: softness, glow, proportion, romance, stability, health, balance, empathy, refuge, compassion, love; I could go on…

  • I must agree with you Damyanti about the different approaches which suit different folk with writing. One size definitely does not fit all.

    I begin with a general idea and outline only, or, if I have braved having many specifics planned in advance, these most regularly get changed, often almost beyond recognition. I find that no matter what my initial intention, my characters and story try to take over, usually, and after the dust has settled I delightedly discover they’ve taken me in directions and to horizons I never remotely envisaged; it’s a singular adventure that very few things in life equal, fiction writing.

    Many a time I’ve walked away from the keyboard or sheets of paper longhand, and been amazed if not agog at whence and to where I was inveigled. I wouldn’t swap the journey for all the bamboo in China.

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