Marguerite Valentine

Marguerite Valentine

Books for the Psychologically Minded

To Plot or not to Plot

There’s three kinds of writers; one embarks on a journey with a map, they know where they’re going. Another type gets in a car and drives as far as they can see their headlights. A third combines the two approaches. They have a vague idea of where they’re going and if or when  they get lost, then they bring out the map.Which are you? I’ve always been the ‘let’s see where this is taking me’type and that was true even when I wrote non-fiction.  It usually worked. I’d begin with the  problem, move onto a discussion and then wrap it all up. So far so good. It worked for shortish academic papers of about five thousand words, but what of the novel?

With ‘Between the Shadow and the Soul’, I was intrigued why a woman might snatch someone’s baby. Popular explanations are infertility or a miscarriage, but as a therapist I’d worked with clients with trauma and I knew at first hand,  trauma can resurface when a similar set of circumstances re-occurr. So that gave me a motive for Flori, the main character inteh novel. It was  terrible event in her childhood, and everything followed from that.

 But continuing with the analogy of the car, a writing journey can be difficult. It’s like a plan to drive to Scotland. You could go up the Motorway until you get there, or alternatively, head towards your destination with a map, but then divert off, to see, for example, the Lakes. The third way,  just drive. No map, no idea. All you know is  Scotland’s somewhere up north.  For my first novel, I chose this as a ‘route’ but I didn’t like the outcome.  So I rewrote it. Totally. It took time.

What’s best? It all depends. In the last analysis, you’re the driver. You might want to try different ‘routes’ before making that final decision. You’re the driver.



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