Discussion: How Much Do You Stick to Your Plots?

Photo credit: Maya83 on Flickr
After a very long period of revising and a much shorter burst of working on a short sekret thing, I'm now on the cusp of being between projects. And bonus, for the first time, I've actually got a couple ideas to play around with. Yay!

And since I'm almost between projects, I looked at a half-plotted project I got distracted from and made it a messy, but fully-plotted project, and thus began thinking about plotting. And how necessary it is to me, even though I don't particularly love the actually plotting part (I like having plotted, not actually plotting). And how different the story will look if I actually write it, because everything changes.

I've mentioned briefly before that I use outlines as guidelines, rather than rulebooks. But I thought it might be fun to go into more detail about that, at least in how it affects me.

From the outline to the first draft, I'd say they're probably about 80-85% the same—barring really drastic changes that force me to re-outline a big chunk of the book...but that hasn't happened in the first draft for me quite yet. From outline to *final* draft, however, the percentage is definitely wayyyy lower. For example, I frequently have to replot/rewrite the last third of the book or so in revisions (have I mentioned lately how much I dislike writing the climax and ending?).

In Beyond the Red, I'd estimate probably 70% stayed pretty close to the original outline—though I did change things throughout the manuscript, and yes, rewrite the last several scenes completely (I think at least three times). But with exception to the completely rewritten parts, most of the changes I made, though they were scattered throughout, didn't massively impact the plot overall.

Not so much with my most recent WIP. With that one, I had to rewrite parts of the opening, cut parts from the opening, rewrite sections in the middle, and COMPLETELY rewrite the last third of the book. There was very little that stayed. And I deviated while first drafting, too. So from outline to final-for-now draft, we're looking at probably... 50% the same? Somewhere in there.

So long story short, as vital as outlines are to me (because without them, I frequently get stuck, and also psych myself out about not knowing how it's going to end, etc.), sticking to them is not really my top priority. They're just meant to give me a direction so that while I'm first drafting I don't hit any major roadblocks—if only because I know where the story is going from here.

For those of you who plot, how much do you stick to your outlines? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Plotters, how much do you stick to your outlines when writing & revising? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

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