no plan

No Plan

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to write with little-to-no planned plot. I start with characters. I get to know them. I put them in a situation that sounds interesting and creates some conflict, and then I sit back and watch what they do.

Not everyone is comfortable taking that approach, but I’ll tell you why I do it. Two reasons.

1. To quote Stephen King, “…if I’m not able to guess with any accuracy how the damned thing is going to turn out, even with my inside knowledge of coming events, I can be pretty sure of keeping the reader in a state of page-turning anxiety.” (And, yes, I used that very same quote the last time I wrote about this. My website, my rules.)

Few things create real suspense like not knowing the end as the writer. If you know the end, it’s much harder to avoid giving it away as you plod along. If even you are in the dark, the chances of you slipping and cluing in the reader are reduced to zero.

Point of clarification: when I say I don’t know the end, I don’t mean I have absolutely no idea. I usually have a rough guess as to where I’m headed. If the writing process were a literal journey and I were in New York, I could tell you I plan to end up in California. I could not, however, tell you the route I plan to take or whether I’ll end my trip in LA, San Diego or somewhere else. I only know I’m going southwest. What I experience on the way is up for grabs.

While I have a vague notion of who will win, I often don’t know which characters will live and which will die. I rarely know the supporting cast well at all. Sometimes, half way through a story or draft of a novel, an unplanned central character will emerge. To me, that’s part of the fun. And that brings us to the second reason I write this way…

2. Because it’s fun. (You really should have seen that coming.)

It sounds chaotic. Sometimes it is, but it’s also a blast. If you haven’t tried writing this way, I strongly encourage it, even just for a short flash fiction piece. Give yourself a beginning, permission to make up everything else on the fly, and just go. See where you end up.

I’m not saying this is “the right way” to write. There isn’t a right way. I’m only saying this is how I do it, and I’ve had some wonderful experiences with this approach. Hence my encouragement. If this strategy doesn’t work for you, don’t sweat it.

But do share your writing process in the comments. I’d love to know what approach you feel most at ease with and why.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

7 Responses to no plan

  1. Your process sounds very similar to mine. I actually don’t WANT to know what’s going to happen, for the reason of tension that you mention, and because I would find it terribly boring, to have to plod on without any surprises. I also don’t actually do what most would regard as ‘plotting’ because once the story-telling calliope inside gets wound up and begins to grind I’ve gotta be ready to WRITE, and have found that happens whenever I get too detailed in the soft notes I take before beginning a novel. And my story-teller doesn’t like to tell the same story twice, so I have to be ready for the long haul!
    Just want to say, as the year draws to a close, how very much I appreciate your inspirational posts, and your continued blogging friendship. Best wishes to you and yours, Dex. May your dreams keep you happy and fulfilled and may your family be healthy and continue to prosper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dex says:

      It’s nice to hear that other writers take the same approach for very similar reasons.

      Of course, your kind words are even nicer. Thank you so much for the encouragement, and for letting me know that my attempts to encourage others are helpful, at least in small ways. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you the very best both now and throughout 2015. Oh, and I’m glad we’re blogging buddies, too. 🙂


  2. P. C. Zick says:

    Even though we write in different genres, our writing style is nearly the same. Thanks for pointing out the positive. And I agree, I always know approximately where I want to end up, just not sure of the journey to get there. It’s a fine way to travel. Thanks, Dex.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s the only way I write. Ever. And I love reading this post and that others do this too, because I used to think I was just lazy or ‘not as smart’ as those ‘organized’ writers who have adult things like plans and outlines. Ha ha.

    Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • dex says:

      I think every writer should write the way that works for them. For me, this is the most fun way. And if you can’t have fun doing it, why write at all?


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