Writing Tips: To Plan, Or Not to Plan?


There are two schools of thought about whether or not to plan the ending of a novel. Some authors — particularly mystery writers — like to plot out every chapter, carefully layering hints, clues, and red herrings so that the conclusion is a surprise. Other authors spend a lot of time thinking about their characters and the story, but don’t do a chapter outline; or if they do, they come up with a loose outline that does not include the ending of the novel. Here are a few pertinent quotes:

“In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.” –Rose Tremain

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
—E.L. Doctorow

“Writing is always a process of discovery—I never know the end, or even the events on the next page, until they happen. There’s a constant interplay between the imagining and shaping of the story.”
—Kim Edwards

Either method can be successful, so figure out whether planning, or not planning, the ending works best for you.

Have a question about writing? Comment or email me at leslie@lesliewellsbooks.com

Leslie Wells has edited forty-nine New York Times bestsellers in her thirty-year publishing career. She is the author of Come Dancing, a novel about publishing and rock and roll, set in New York City in the 1980s. Visit her at www.lesliewellsbooks.com

CC Commons Photo: Power of Words by Antonio Litterio

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