Do you plot?

As I’ve gotten to know various authors over the past six years, I’ve come realize that we all approach writing a little differently. Some plot, some don’t. A few even do a partial plot, then let creativity take over. If you write, what approach do you use?

Personally, I don’t plot. Not because I can’t, but… well, it doesn’t do me any good. I’ve tried to plot before. Really, I have. I had a terrific plot one time, had the whole book lined out chapter by chapter, even had a detailed list of what happened within each chapter (complete with quotes!). It was pretty. But somewhere in the midst of writing chapter one, something happened. My characters didn’t behave the way they were supposed to behave. The heroine didn’t fall in love with the hero, in fact, she couldn’t stand him! As her personality began to develop, it became quite obvious I’d paired her with the wrong brother.

As I ripped out those sheets of notebook paper, with my beautiful outline on them, and tossed them into the trash, I actually felt a sense of relief. I no longer had to worry about whether or not X,Y, Z was going to be accomplished in chapter two, or if everything was going to be on track for the events coming up in chapter three. No, instead, I just let the words flow. My characters took on lives of their own, whispering to me as I wrote, telling me their stories as I rushed to get them on paper. I wasn’t focused on the end result anymore and just let the story happen. It wasn’t a goal, a job, it was a form of creative expression and an emotional release.

Now, while I love to write this way, because there is a certain rush to it when everything is falling into place so nicely, there is also a downside. What happens when the characters aren’t speaking to you? Well… you hit a dead end until someone starts talking again. I’ve gone days without writing, but then an idea will pop in my head, or someone will whisper something to me that lights me on fire again and off I go.

While I do track how many words I write per day (I have a pretty spreadsheet just for my writing!), and I do set daily goals, I try to go with the flow. If I don’t write one day, so what. Maybe my brain needed a break that day and I just didn’t realize it. Yes, there are deadlines to meet, but I’ve found that if you force the words out, the end result isn’t nearly as pretty as when they just happen. Or at least, that’s the case with me.

So… do you plot? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?