Why you shouldn’t write from a blueprint

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an article on writing and the subconscious mind by Charlotte Seager…

I’ve never believed in outlining. Even in high school, when my teachers insisted upon it, I’d write the essay first and sketch out the outline afterwards. Instead of outlining, I advocate mindmapping.

Thus, I was interested to read a recent article published in the Guardian, headlined: “How the subconscious mind shapes creative writing.” (Thanks to my former  newspaper colleague John Armstrong for alerting me to the link.)

In this intriguing article, journalist Charlotte Seager interviews current-day fiction writers who may be relying on their subconscious in order to write.

Here, for example, is what novelist Michelle Paver has to say about her subconscious:

Even if you plan your book, the actual writing is unplanned. All stories come from the subconscious – which is why it doesn’t make sense to over-plan. And it’s only once you get on the ground with the characters that you think ‘Oh hang on a second he’s not going to want to do that’ and you have to change your plot. So I’m constantly being surprised and finding unplanned things – because the writing is a process of experiencing things on the ground with the characters.

For me, the act of writing is the act of changing my mind, again and again. I plan, but not so obsessively that I feel tied down to my plan. I think about what my readers want and need but not so compulsively that I’m unwilling to go in a different direction.

The joy of writing, is to be able to discover what you really think. And sometimes you don’t know that until you get the words on paper…