Muse vs Plotting: Who Wins in a Cage Fight?

Filed Under: Book Related
Cage fight

Stefan Tell Click to zoom...

If you’ve picked up a book on writing then you’ve probably read about the horrors of plotting or how plotting is the one thing that shall save all writers till kingdom come.

There are two schools of thought and they are so diametrically opposed it doesn’t seem you can be a fan of one without hating the other.

But you can, can’t you?

I’m a fan of series–like most of American readers these days–and once I’ve gotten familiar with the writing style of an author, I can predict when certain things in the plot will occur. Sure, the antagonist might be a different gender, race and/or species but they all fill a familiar space. The same way the resolution seems to always happen around the same point and in a similar fashion.

This is plotting. It has to be. But it works.

Is plotting really such a bad thing? Is it just a romantic and antiquated reader/author who expects stories to plop down out of the ether and/or be spoon fed by some muse?

When I started writing the book I’m working on right now–It’s not done so don’t ask.–I started with an idea about a tiny white spider and went from there. The first several chapters were just me writing whatever came into my rather large, misshapen head. It wasn’t until I had gotten through the first seven thousand or so words that I went back and took a look at what I had done.

It wasn’t all bad but some of that crap needed to be scraped off and then promptly pressure washed. It’s called editing, people! In that early editing session, I identified where stuff wasn’t working and where new things needed to happen and how said things would happen and what repercussions would be wrought from the earlier actions.

But I wasn’t plotting, right? My muse was feeding me all those words. He was whispering them into my ear as he gave my shoulders a deep tissue massage. Right?

Maybe I was plotting? Maybe the editing process is a nicer way to package plotting?

I work best when I know where things are going so I’m in the I’m-just-going-to-plot-an-outline camp. I know some people are in the I’m-going-to-plot-every-damn-gasp camp while others here the word “plotting” and run away screaming whilst ripping hair from their scalps.

Is there a right way to write or is the right way whatever way gets you to write?