The Rules of Engagement

Plotting. Some people hate it. I’d build a cottage and live there if I could. Often I’m accused of liking to plot more than I like writing the story itself. They’re probably not wrong.

But … why? Isn’t that the boring part? It can be. For me, plotting is working with fun, beautiful little ideas. They can be anything. They have no warts or wild hairs. They are still perfect, because I haven’t really touched them yet.

But the truth is: no one wants to read our outlines. They are full of shorthand, and half-thoughts, and they just don’t see what we see. So yeah. Until they invent a brain-to-paper transcription machine, eventually we’re still going to have to write the darn story, too.

red rose flowers bouquet on white surface beside spring book with click pen and cup of cofffee

Photo by Lum3n on

So, I’ve tried flying free for a few decades, and have nothing published.  It’s not working.  It’s time to finally admit that I need some kind of boundaries to get the stories in my head down on paper.  I need to know when it’s okay to keep plotting, and when it’s time to stop.

I want to win this time!  This is war!  So I need some Rules of Engagement.

But what should they be?  I know up front that I don’t want a word count goal.  I’ll probably talk about this in more detail later, but the short version of this story is: they don’t work for me.  I write them, throw them away, get frustrated, and end up on an extended hiatus.

I also don’t want deadlines.  This one is because I hate to lose, even if it’s just in my own head.  If I set a deadline on something as ethereal as a writing goal, I’ll convince myself that I’m ready when I’m not.

I don’t want goals, per se. I want rules that address my underlying weaknesses.

Here is what I came up with.  They felt a little clunky at the time, but so far I think they’re holding up okay.  And as I get further into the writing process I might add more for the editing process.  For now, I’ve settled on:

  1. I shall not write a chapter of the book until my plotting is done.
  2. I shall not impose a deadline on the plotting.
  3. shall let my characters write me letters, in their own voice, to hold off the itch to pick up a pencil and break rule #1.

Well, hang on. Those rules don’t address my concerns at all. I wanted to start writing, not make up rules to help me put it off forever.

So, let’s look at those a little closer in the next posts.


What do you think?