The Methodical Approach

I consider this a debate – hope you find it helpful.

Write first, then plan

If you’re looking for methodical organization but have nothing on paper, I’d strongly suggest you write something, first.


It surprises me that anyone would try to organize something that doesn’t exist, but I can understand the theory. For instance, when I first moved into my current home, I proactively built a lot of storage shelves to accommodate stuff sure to accumulate. And of course, after I’d unpacked, I discovered I needed vertical space (for a vacuum cleaner) where I now had a closet full floor-to-ceiling, of shelves.

If you need to figure out how your favorite snippet can become a story, by all means, start here.  But start with something you’re passionate about, whether it’s a nascent plot, a character, or a scene; that will temper your eagerness to organize with respect for the material.  Without that respect, you may make decisions that, well, make what could have been a perfect vacuum cleaner home, completely uninhabitable by vacuum cleaners.

How much time do you have?

I find it a LOT easier to determine the beats in retrospect than to plan them. Giving myself time (years, I mean years) to write, go back and identify the beats, and then move forward, I more easily navigated events and missing steps than if I had tried to read from the beginning and proceed from the Last Known Good. However, there’s no doubt that from now on, with my current experience, I’ll sketch the story first and let the characters decide whether I need to make changes when I reach a decision point.

Preserve your passion

Allowing the story to progress organically as I brainstormed, I bought into the story and moved forward to develop the story step-by-step with passion and conviction. I think if I’d been compelled to sketch a character and a plot before being comfortable with either, I’d only have proceeded under protest.  But I might have learned fantastically useful skills, albeit grudgingly.

Limitations of the linear method

Organizing my story into beats didn’t help me realize my story’s climax wasn’t any such thing. It’s important to differentiate the parts of your story rather than relying on a linear progression of beats.

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