And so it thickens. Sorry, couldn't resist.
There are two trains of thought when it comes to plotting. One is to wing it, trust in your characters and off you go. Journey of a lifetime. Obviously you need some kind of framework - you don't want to end up in Bognor Regis if you were aiming for Las Vegas - but the key is to not cling to an ending. How do you know where you're going to end up if you have no idea how to get there in the first place. It's a very organic process.
The second is to plan in minute detail what will happen. For once you are actually allowed to write a step by step synopsis with chapter breakdowns. Just never show it to anyone. And sure, this way certainly focuses the mind but don't let it block character creativity. Otherwise what's the point?
You must must must give yourself permission to write rubbish and make it to that finish line. First drafts are pretty much about emptying your head of every single thought you ever had about your novel. And let's be honest - 90% of those were random tangents you had because of too much/too little coffee.
So how can knowing our plot help us as writers? Well, apart from the obvious - it means we can finish the book - it becomes the answer to the hardest question we'll ever get asked. What's your book about then? I'm getting better at answering that question. My first attempts went into way too much detail and because I know my book inside and out, backwards and front I whizzed about, dipping into the good bits and trying to impart every single awesome thing that happens. I'm pretty sure that the person who asked the question still has no idea and fervently wishes they had never asked in the first place.
Imagine the scenario. You landed the publishing deal. You are at your very first book signing ever. Members of the public have no idea who you are but hey, you're sat a desk with a pile of books round you. They pick up one of your babies. And ask the question. You've now got about 20 seconds to wow them before they lose interest and walk away.
I know. I'm with you. Sweaty palms, lots of umms and that deflated feeling of stammering to someone's back as they walk away.
Here's the solution. In one line tell me who your main character is. Then tell me what they want. Now tell me why they can't have it. BOOM! That's your plot in a nutshell and it's sounds fantastic. If you can't answer those questions then you and your characters need to spend some serious time together. One of my new projects, called Thursday's Child, is about a lady called Daphne Davis who was looking for love and instead found heartbreak and pain.
The last word goes to Ian Ayris who said last night 'Write with courage, write what it's really about.'
Be brave my fellow writers.