Plot programs: Good or bad? Always or never?

To use a plotting program or not to use one.

Good question and I think there’s a reasonable answer.

I used to use a plotting program and it was worth every penny it cost. It forced me to lay out the story arc, the character arcs, the climax, and every other part of a story.

As time passed, however, and I got better at crafting fiction, it became less and less useful because my plotting skills had become better. So I put it aside.

Then I changed genres and hit a brick wall trying to plot a new and different kind of story. I fretted and fumed and knocked my head against a wall in a futile attempt to figure out how to plot that different kind of story.

Nothing happened. Until I remembered that plotting device from way back when.

So I went looking for it among the files on my computer. I never did find it but I’d been a writer long enough by then that I knew there were many ways to plot a story. So I did some research, checked out the various ways other writers used, and settled on story-boarding.

It worked. More important, though, as I got into the story, my experience and ability as a writer kicked in and I found that I didn’t need to story-board because I could suddenly see the curve of the story clearly.

The resulting story was, I believe, better because of the structure that story-boarding provided. But I also think that part of what made it a good story was that I  regained my confidence, forgot about structure, and let the story tell itself.

I was happy with the resulting story and as I looked it over, I realized that there’s a saying that sums up what I learned:

Follow the rules until you know them well enough to ignore them.








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