Well, three years after I started self-publishing my books and realised the need to blog regularly and appropriately about them, I am finally admitting I’m as insecure as the next person.  So I’ve joined the Insecure Writers Support Group, hoping to link in with other insecure writers who feel it worthwhile to band together on a blog hop, on the first Wednesday of each month, to talk about our experiences.

I had planned to talk about my books, and that dreadful thing about comparing one’s own work to the wonderful examples in one’s own genre (or for the same target audience), but something came in my emails late last month that made me stop and wonder…   If you follow IBD Authors, you’ll have seen it too.

Plot blueprints.

“Ready-made story arcs, character sheets, chapter breakdowns, settings/locations.”

“to save you hundreds of hours of research time”

Um.  Am I the only writer insecure enough to think this might be a shade too close to plagiarism?  It’s difficult to get a really good plot without treading on  (or even unwittingly reproducing) something that has been done before.  My writing tutor suggested that we could take inspiration from other stories – especially citing the Bible – but that doesn’t mean copying those plots, does it?

I stumbled across this issue when I came to do Willoughby’s Narrathon stories for Castle Marsh’s Solstice season (on the Princelings website each Monday in December, if you missed it).  He retold in his own words the Snow Queen, the carol of Good King Wenceslas, a Christmas Carol, and The Nutcracker.  The key thing is, I acknowledged that.  I’m not entirely sure where his story of the Princess and the Pea comes from, since he changed it quite a bit, but I think fairy tales and legends are generally considered fair game, especially as they usually revolve around morality tales or heroism.

But plot blueprints?

Heaven knows I get stuck often enough when writing my stories.  But isn’t that what being a writer is all about?  Crafting the story, twisting the tale, getting your characters out of the mess in to which they’ve got themselves without bamboozling the reader?

“A turn key solution is using writing prompts or utilizing plot blueprints to get the creative juices flowing.”

Writing prompts are one thing – for writing exercises, even if I am thinking of putting some of my flash fiction out as a collection.  But plot blueprints?

What do you think?

Do leave a comment below, and visit other insecure writers here:

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I’m admitting it – I’m insecure!
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18 thoughts on “I’m admitting it – I’m insecure!

  • 7 January, 2015 at 11:09 am
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    Welcome to the IWSG, Jemima!
    I’m so glad you joined us! 🙂

    Plot blueprints? That’s a bit much… it defeats the purpose of those interesting and unexpected plot twists that unfold as you are writing.
    What a disappointing thought. 🙁
    It doesn’t make sense to me… would definitely take the joy out of writing.

    • 7 January, 2015 at 10:55 pm
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      Thanks, Michelle – me neither

  • 7 January, 2015 at 1:41 pm
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    Disappointing concept, Jemima. We all write things we’ve seen, done or researched into our stories but working without a blueprint is the most fun!

    • 7 January, 2015 at 10:59 pm
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      I agree, Noelle!

    • 7 January, 2015 at 11:02 pm
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      Thanks, Chris!

  • 7 January, 2015 at 3:36 pm
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    I’m wih you. In any case, I think that if a person can’t generate a plot of their own, maybe they lack the imagination to be a writer? Maybe this is part of our whole culture that tells kids that they are the best most wonderfullest no matter what. Reality check: not everyone can be everything. And if you do have the imagination, or perfect pitch, or great coordination, it still takes that 10,000 hours to become a really good writer, or musician, or baseball player (or cricket, if you prefer 😀 ).

    Of course, writers in some pulp genres have been more or less doing that for years. Or maybe not. Even writing to the formula of a Harlequin Romance doesn’t seem quite as mechanistic as buying a plot and characters from someone!

    • 7 January, 2015 at 11:06 pm
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      That’s a good point. “You too can be a writer – just use this kit”

      Of course, established writers are accused of having formulae they write to, but that’s different, I think.

  • 7 January, 2015 at 5:31 pm
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    I’ve heard it said that there are really only five plots in all of fiction. No one’s ever managed to provide me with a list of those five plots, but people keep telling me there are only five plots (or sometimes they say there are seven, or four, or whatever finite number they choose).

    I agree that there is a lot of repetition in fiction. Many stories have certain similarities, and sometimes those similarities are deliberate. But to start off with a plot blue print… a blue print created by someone else… I think that would kill any sense of originality or spontaneity in your writing.

    • 7 January, 2015 at 11:11 pm
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      Well, I think you *could* reduce them to a small number, for example “boy meets girl, they have misunderstandings but work them out and live happily ever after” or “boy meets girl, they are misunderstood and reach a tragic end” and a few more, but it’s a bit like saying that there are only four operations in maths and all the others are variations or combinations of them. Which is one way of explaining calculus!

      • 8 January, 2015 at 5:50 am
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        Oh, I like the math analogy! I’m going to use that the next time someone starts telling me there are only X number of plots in all of fiction.

  • 7 January, 2015 at 5:34 pm
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    Welcome to IWSG. Nice to visit a fellow newbie.

    I did receive that same email and was stunned by it. I thought, “Is this really a thing writers do?” I must admit I didn’t think of plagiarism, but laziness came to mind. Along with Ad Libs.

    • 7 January, 2015 at 10:56 pm
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      Stunned is the right word. I’m glad I’m not the only one. Thanks for visiting 🙂

  • 7 January, 2015 at 8:36 pm
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    I saw that suggestion somewhere too and I agree with you. It sounds sketchy and I would never do it.

    • 7 January, 2015 at 11:06 pm
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      Thanks, Susan 🙂

  • 9 January, 2015 at 12:45 am
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    I don’t use blueprints. I prefer to write my own outlines and watch where my characters take me. Happy New Year!

    • 9 January, 2015 at 8:56 pm
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      I love the things my characters do that surprise me. Have fun writing, Donna!

  • 10 January, 2015 at 8:05 pm
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    Welcome to the IWSG group! It’s great to meet you. I’m stunned by that email. I feel like if I was going to buy all that then what’s the point of even writing a book? It wouldn’t be mine anyway and all the fun would go out of it.

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