How to plot your book the hard way.

I am terrible at plot. For a very long time (46 years, to be precise), this was the main reason I knew for certain that I couldn't be a writer.

It was, however, before I made two important discoveries.

1. You can steal plots. Pride & Prejudice always works, as does David Copperfield, but any story will do. When you're done, readers might say, Wait a minute! You based this book on We Need To Talk About Kevin, didn't you? They won't mention David Copperfield at all, because along the way it has magically become your book, with nothing but a vestige of the original buried in the tribute -- unless you are a scary plagiarist with no conscience who has lifted entire chapters. Which is bad and wrong.

2. You don't actually need a plot. Learn to trust the workings of your deep inner psyche and the plot will emerge by itself. In addition, the subconscious mind will breathe life into your invented characters in much the way the Blue Fairy made Pinocchio a real boy. This is the magical bit of writing that you hear about, when characters take independent action, and plots twist and turn in unexpected directions.

I tend to be of the school that if you carefully plan every page before you sit down to write, your book will emerge rather like a coffin measured out by a carpenter: serviceable but a bit stiff.

If, however, you allow your book to develop organically, it will be full of life and energy and make your mother proud.

Just be warned that as well as offering moments of great discovery and joy, writing organically can be a hellish nightmare.

It's frightening and nerve-wracking and often leads to despair.  But on the (many) occasions that you find yourself down a dark cul de sac, you'll probably find lots of fellow writers there too, all cursing our miserable books--so at least you won't feel lonely.

Eventually, with a lot of blood, sweat, uncontrollable sobbing and dogged persistence, you'll get to the end.

You'll be a wreck, a ruin, a shadow of your former self.

But the book will be better for it.