This week's discussion board in one of my MFA courses asked us to consider the "myths" of writing. The how-tos, the how-not-tos, which approach is best when it comes to plotting or pantsing, you know what I mean.
If you're unfamiliar with the terms plotting and pantsing, here's a brief description. Writers who are "plotters" insist it is necessary to have the entire plot of a story laid out before ever starting to write. Those who identify as "pantsers" adhere to the just get the words on the page and plot will take care of itself.
I fall in between these two schools of thought. I think having a good idea of where your characters and plot are going to end up and how they will get there is a great idea. However, I don't believe a writer should be forced to stick strictly to the prescribed plot points. I mean, sometimes, characters will wander off on their own and discover some pretty cool stuff!
Often, when I'm writing, I will have both my manuscript and my plot blueprint open on my desktop. The blueprint is for reference just in case I get lost in the moment and my characters wind up lost. If the detour is a good one, I'll figure out how to work it into the blueprint. If it's a pointless side-quest which doesn't add to the larger story, I can refer to the blueprint and figure out where we went off the rails.
Then we come to those writers who believe that simply putting words on a page correctly is enough to create a beautiful or compelling story. Those who believe writing well is the ultimate key to good story-telling. I argue that some of the best story-tellers I've ever met probably had very little idea about what commas do or why they're necessary. Hell, they hardly stopped to take a breath, unless they were pausing for dramatic effect. The point is, they told the story and cared not one bit for the technicalities of syntax, diction, punctuation, or grammer. Their passion for the story for the sake of the story provided the magic.
Write your stories passionately. Believe in what you have to say. Know where you're going but be willing to explore alternative routes to get there. The technicalities should be the wrapping paper, not the gift.