Well, technically, yeah. You need a plot. You know the whole character wants something and can’t get it and tries multiple times until he succeeds? Yeah. That.
Recently I experienced an epic total pantsing failure.
I tried. Honestly. I said, okay, I have an idea. I have a title. I’m just going to go with it. I wrote 6 chapters. And though there are some funny moments, touching moments, and okay dialogue – it was missing a backbone.
My story was a gushy, mushy, gelatin-like substance with nothing solid to hold it together. But I still had my idea and my title.
So I started plotting. And it was as good as eating chocolate peanut butter ice cream.
How I plot:
- I open a document and start free writing a bunch of What if and What then questions.
- I let it sit a couple days. I research. I let my brain work on it while I do other things. I dream. I think about the story I would want to read.
- I go back and pull out what sounds good. I write a logline. And then a paragraph summary. And I build from there. This might change drastically over the course of the story. My first idea is never my best.
- Then I’ll work out the structure according to the 3 acts. Inciting force. First act climax. Middle of story twist. Dark moment. And then I build scene by scene toward the climax.
- And I’ll write a scene by scene outline.
- Finally, I start writing the first draft.
Does my outline change? Yes. And I adjust from there.
Constantly through out the outlining and writing I ask: How can I make this scene bigger or better? How can I make things worse for my character? How can I add emotion?
Click on the banner to find out how other writers plot! How do you plot? Any tips or tricks? Plotter or pantser? Share.
Have you entered my magnficent middle grade give away?
I’m a simple plot guy. I just have to know how the novel starts and ends, and then how first and second acts end (I think in three act structure). Then I can write an overview. And then start writing.
For me, pantsing helps fill in gaps. And of course there are the pages of notes after a line break at the end of every draft that I add to all along the way.
Um, yeah, I do it that way too. *waves hands distractedly* (Don’t look at my page.) 🙂 Actually I talked more about character development on my blog today.
Seriously, Laura, in a nutshell you just described what I’ve been looking for — I need to do the questions. I’m struggling with the plot my new WIP — actually my two new WIPs.
Robert – There is a certain degree of pantsing where the best idea comes. I have a goal for each scene but the rest is pantsing. So I can see why writers do it. I just can’t.
Kris – I can’t wait to read your new stuff!
Pantser. Outlining saps my need to write the book. BUT I either do something similar to this after the first draft, or toward middle or end of it if I have the “gushy mushy” you spoke of. That sets me up for the revisions.
You are so organized Laura! i think I’m going to use some of these tips for my new WIP!! = )
Marcia – It truly is amazing how differently writers work. Outlining and knowing what is going to happen is what inspires me to write it! 🙂
Jen – Again, it’s neat to see how different everyone’s brains work when it comes to creating! There is no right way!
This post had me at “peanut butter ice cream.” Yum.
Okay, yeah plotting.
I plot and outline similar to what you do, Laura. It always changes of course. But I can’t start writing without it. This is why I give pantsers their due — I just couldn’t just start writing and see where the story takes me — I need some structure.
The way I do it is very similar to this. I can’t do pantsing to save my life, and I’ve tried. I love how clearly you explained your method.
I love hearing other people’s processes. No two people do it exactly the same. And actually, I change a little bit how I write with each WIP.
Okay, I’m gonna copy you the next time around. I love the orderliness and the questions. You are fab at writing about all things writing.
Thanks for commenting everyone! I love hearing about the writer’s process esp. when it is so different from mine b/c those methods are hard for me to grasp – like pantsing. 🙂
I’m with you on the NOT PANTSING part. I mean I pants each scene just like you. But if I were to start a new story with a vague idea, and sit down to write I would freeze up. I’d stare at the blank white screen until it swallowed me whole.
Again I love your lists, it makes it very easy to understand where you’re coming from. Great post! 🙂
I’ve been pantsing through my first novel (maybe a fourth through), but since I’m retelling a fairy tale, I do have a rough structure to follow. I love the idea of brainstorming questions. I’m definitely going to try that one. I may not even wait until my next story!
great post! Sounds like we have pretty much the same technique. I love outlining. And I use the ‘crossout’ button as I finish off scenes. I love seeing my whole outline get crossed out when I finish my first draft. And the outline does end up changing as I write the story- add scenes or move them around etc…
I am a little of both and have yet to perfect either one to my liking!
I’m a pantser. I’ve tried plotting, and it has never worked for me–but your approach might be worth a shot. It looks like a hybrid between the two approaches, and might be workable for me. I’m going to try it sometime soon.
“My story was a gushy, mushy, gelatin-like substance with nothing solid to hold it together.”
This describes to the max what my work is if I just start writing with no direction in mind. I always have to have the working plot first.
That is exactly how I do it too. Sure it may take longer the being a panster, but it’s less of a nightmare in the long run. 😀
Laura–this is fascinating to me. I am a pantser. I have an idea, and let it stew for a while–a long while–and then I explore the emotional journey of the characters through music (a soundtrack). I sometimes write a novella because I must get to the end, and then throw it out and start over to really fill in all the gaps. I pants it all the way through. I wish that Robert has trained me to think in three acts, but he hasn’t yet. Being a pantser means a ton of revision, but quick first drafts. I love to see how you set it all up. Thanks for the insight!