In life, it’s important to always have a plan. That helpful blueprint to guide us along the pathway we need to follow.
Just like in life, it’s a good idea to have an actual story outline to help a writer know where they want to go with their tale. In my case, I like to plot a story out scene by scene (or chapter by chapter, scene by scene, as the case may be).
Sometimes what you plan out doesn’t always come to pass for whatever reason. Perhaps in hindsight the scene or character interaction doesn’t make sense or becomes redundant. Maybe you just got bored with the idea when you went to actually write it out.
This has happened to me a bit lately. For example, a story chapter I was working on felt boring so I changed the scene a bit. In doing so, I messed up the story progression and had to figure out a new way to work through the plot.
Another time, a short story with what seemed like a straight forward enough premise went off the rails mid-way. I’m still trying to feel my way through that one.
Writing is an art where one needs to plan things out ahead of time. To know where they’re going and how to get there. But when the unthinkable happens and things change, we also need to be able to think on our feet. Improvisation can be crucial.
Consider how many things over the years that may have been affected by changes on the fly. The original Star Wars is a good example, with things changing constantly throughout production. Apocalypse Now!, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek, etc, etc. The list is endless.
How many works of art have been improved upon by improvisatio
n? Some may have been made worse too, of course. Sometimes one over thinks an idea to the point it loses whatever poignancy it may have had in the first place. Or, by over-working it, they reveal the premise wasn’t so great in the first place (I think of countless bad movies that have been rewritten and re-edited into mediocrity).
In the case of writing, this also demonstrates that one needs to have a very good understanding of storytelling in the first place. If it starts to fall apart or veer off in the wrong direction, a good writer must be able to realize that there’s a problem in the first place and then actively work to correct it.
They also need to know how to fix whatever the problem is and get things back on track, even if that means discovering some new and innovative method to course-correct.
Good writing skills are essential, yes, but so are good editing skills. Many a good editor has saved a story from becoming a dumpster fire over the years by being able to recognize issues as they crop up.
I’m also a firm believer that where you start out in a story doesn’t always matter as long as the end-point is properly satisfying. If you stick the landing, as they say, you’ll leave with a much more satisfied audience then if you end on some bizarre note that leaves them scratching their heads. That’s not to say it has to always be a happy ending per se but an ending that makes sense given the overall context and theme of the story.
Good organizational skills, a good imagination, improvisation and an ability to make it all make sense in the end. These are the true hallmarks of a good storyteller. Everything is just icing on the cake when it comes to what one brings to the table.