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Balance between plotting and musing for the busy writer

You may have heard of Architects versus Gardeners for writers. Architects plan everything out beforehand, while Gardeners cultivate their stories as they go. Most writers are a little bit of both, even if you lean more one direction.

And you should be both.

When you get a spark for a story idea, a scene, a conversation, a descriptive action, never rein yourself in to prevent writing ahead just because you feel you should follow the script. Conversely, don’t spend all your time ruminating on ideas and all the ‘fun’ parts you can’t wait to write, and then never figure out what exactly the plot is for your story or how to connect the pieces.

Usually, an idea for a story grips me so hard, I spend hours, days at the start just writing down notes about the characters and what I want the story to be. Maybe I’ll flush out a scene or idea if it’s particularly strong, but I keep myself open to what comes naturally—I let the muse MUSE.

Then I sit down and try to bullet point out the arcs of the story. Usually, I get a little caught up in certain spots and will write forever on one section while not fully knowing what will happen with others just yet. As soon as I feel stuck with plotting though, I pause and move to the beginning of the story. How does the story start?

It becomes a give and take of these processes from there. I write, if something sparks in me that draws me ahead, I scroll down to let that out of me, and once it runs its course, I return to the main body of the text again.

As I start to progress through the story, before I catch up to those moments where I know I’m stuck on plot, I look ahead to them on purpose, try to see if I can find more inspiration to develop them sooner rather than later now that I’ve written more from the beginning and have also indulged a little in additional muse-filled ideas along the way.

It may seem sporadic—jumping around from the start, to the middle, to the deeper plot, to the fun parts—but that’s the nature of the human attention span. One of the reasons we tend to hit what we call ‘writer’s block’ is because we burn out by doing things too much one way. This method keeps you fresh without stifling your gardening skills or your ability to erect masterpieces with fine architectural detail.

For me, writing this way helps better build plots because they form naturally, never forced, but I also don’t get so caught up in the fluff that I forget to plot at all. Over the years, these skills just get better. I think my next book release is far more clearly plotted than my first few novels.

Always grow, always improve, always strive to better yourself and your writing.

I hope these tips help you with your next writing endeavor. The best trick of course is to write as much as you can, whether it’s that great novel you’ve always aspired to create or maybe just a piece of fanfiction to share with friends. Every tale you spin makes you better for the next round.

What are some tips YOU find most useful for plotting compelling stories?

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