On, Plotting, Plans and First Contact

The material and moral consequences of every major battle are so far-reaching that they usually bring about a completely altered situation, a new basis for the adoption of new measures. One cannot be at all sure that any operational plan will survive the first encounter with the main body of the enemy. Only a layman could suppose that the development of a campaign represents the strict application of a prior concept that has been worked out in every detail and followed through to the very end.

Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke

In other words: No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.

I spent roughly two months planning my novel; distilling the plot down into a single sentence, expanding that sentence into a paragraph-long three act overview, further expansion into a four page detailed synopsis, and finally outlining the conflict of each individual scene from start to finish.

And then it came time to actually start writing the first draft, which I officially began yesterday.

And never did the above quote become truer.

My plan was great. It was logical, tied everything up. I know it will serve me well as I go through the first draft of this novel.

But already, it’s apparent that so much of my plan is not going to survive first contact.

After just the first scene alone, characters start to become real, settings take on a life of their own, customs become defined, vocabulary and voice grow into their own. And every element of the story that can only be uncovered in the first draft begins to make demands on the story.

The plan is important, but the job of the writer is to allow the story to tell itself.

I’m not planning on throwing the plan out. It’s still incredibly value.

But I can already tell that I am going to be humbled. The plan I thought was bullet proof is going to have to learn to get out of the way.

It’s not going survive this first draft. At least not completely.

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