Tagged with "plotting"
Plot or Free Flow?
Category: Writing
Tags: writing plotting short stories novels

Something Iíve been giving some thought to recently is whether you should plot out your writing Ė whether it be short stories or novels Ė or whether you should just start and see where you end up.

When I first started writing, I had plenty of ideas. I would start and then get stuck and eventually abort. I still have files and files of half (or quarter) written stories. To help myself with this I set myself the challenge to write a piece of flash fiction every day for a year. I canít say that I wrote 365 finished pieces, but I certainly got much better at being able to reach an end. Iíve heard some people say that even if you donít know how the story is going to go, you should at least have an ending in mind; something youíre working towards.

For flash fiction itís probably not even possible to plot out your story. But how about for longer pieces? Barbara Dynes in Masterclasses in Creative Writing says ď[t]he amount of obstacles and complications you add to your initial idea depends on the length and tone of your story.Ē (p.11) This is her suggestion for a 2,000 word story: Problem, Obstacle 1, Obstacle 2, Obstacle 3, Crisis, Climax (pg.11). Iíve tried plotting out stories like this, but donít find they flow particularly well when I write them. This may just be because 2,000 words is not a good length for me, or maybe itís because plotting doesnít work for me.

Iíve recently finished the first draft of my first novel. I didnít plot anything. I knew the beginning and I had a rough idea of the ending and I wrote a couple of pages per day until it was finished. It will take a lot of editing, but is that any different to a plotterís first draft? The 90-day novel, written by Alan Watt, is based around there being a story structure for the novel, which ďcan be applied to any story, from the most Ďtraditionally structuredí to the most esoteric piece of writingĒ (pg. 285).

I know every writer needs to find his or her own way, but my question is: have you changed the way you write in the time that youíve been writing? How? And why?

How To Build a Snowman (Any Time of The Year) Tags: writing plotting character development novel writing writing methods snowflake method for writing a novel

How To Build a Snowman (Any Time of the Year)

I know, sounds impossible doesnít it? But hopefully it got your attention. †And when Iím not talking about the cold white stuff as such, it will make more sense.

When I realised during NaNo, that my story was going to be a lot bigger than Iíd originally planned, I nearly threw in the towel. It was day thirteen (ominous enough). I had a sore throat, a thumping headache and so curled up on the sofa with my Kindle. Scrolling through the unread items in the library I came across How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. This method wasnít new to me but I hadnít read the book. Itís not a long book, in fact I didnít put it down until I had read ĎThe Endí.

Randy explains the method using familiar characters and stories from childhood. Goldilocks is the protagonist and the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs feature but it is by no means a fairy story. It takes you through the ten steps of the Snowflake Method demonstrating each one with examples of how it works in practice and more. I have never read a How To book like it. At first I thought, Ďthis is stupidí and then two hours later, I reached ĎThe End. What can I say? †Iím a simple girl at heart and love a fairytale.

There are three reasons this method works for me:

  • Plot or Character Driven: First and foremost it solves this age old issue †as the steps alternate between the two, interweaving each so that both are given equal consideration. †Makes sense when you think that a story canít do without either.

  • Small Steps: The steps for both plot and character build on one another. The analogy with the snowflake fractal is that it starts small and then becomes more complex. The actions range from writing a one sentence plot synopsis to detailed scene summaries and character point of view sketches to character bibles.

  • Ease of Change: The most important thing for me is the ability to backtrack at any point of this system. I have a scatter brain. My Ďwhat ifísí can cover three or four pages and I like to play with different scenarioís to see what impact they have. This way means that I donít have to rewrite reams and reams or discover half way through thousands of words that itís not working.

Much of the work produced by this method will come in handy at the publication stage. †It provides material that will market the story in a succinct, snappy style. It can also be used, in reverse, for an existing Work in Progress which may be floundering for whatever reason.

So no need to don your hat, gloves and coat. You can start using snowflakes to build your snowman in the comfort of your warm writing place, and not just at Christmas - or November for that matter.

Plotter or Pantser
Category: Writing
Tags: Plotting writing

Okay - so the pig's got nothing to do with this blog but I thought it might fool you all into reading on.

Iím in the middle (actually Ďmiddleí is probably exaggerating but I have started) plotting books 4, 5 and 6 of my Bloodhunter series. So I thought Iíd ramble a little about plotting today.

Iím going to start this post with a quote from Stephen Kingís excellent book, On Writing Ė A Memoir of the Craft, which is one of my favorite writing books. So here goes:

ďPlot is, I think, the good writerís last resort and the dullardís first choice. The story that results is apt to feel artificial and labored.Ē

Now after that damning condemnation of plotting, I going to have to admit somethingóIím a plotter. There Iíve said it. Iím a plotter, and Iím proud.

Well, maybe not proud. The truth is, I always wanted to be a pantseróone of those people who just sit down, start writing, and fabulous stories tumble from their minds onto the keyboard, fully formed. But Iím not.

Iíve been writing for a few years now, and Iíve tried a lot of different methods. I probably started out doing a hybrid of the two, a bit of plotting, then a bit of pantsing. Iíd usually begin with some characters and a starting incident, and Iíd know where I wanted to end up (I write romance so the happy ever after is a given). In between, Iíd move toward the conclusion, sometimes with purpose, sometimes weaving around as though Iíd drunk way too much red wine (which might actually have been the case), but Iíd get there in the end.

Then I read Stephen King, and I thoughtóI donít want to be a dullard. Letís go for this. I had a couple of characters, and I knew they had to fall in love, but other than that, I had no clue. I started writing, and soon found myself stuck in the middle, unable to see how to get to the end without totally rewriting what I had done so far. Which I did. Numerous times.

So for my next story, I decided to embrace my dullardness. And I plotted. Not just the beginning and the end, but the middle as well. I did character interviews, and a scene by scene breakdown of the whole book. And I enjoyed it. Not only that, but I enjoyed writing the first draft as wellóit just whizzed out of my fingertips. I found I could concentrate on the characters reactions and emotions during the scenes rather than on what they were actually doing and why.

I now like to think I do my pantsing during the plotting process. Thatís the time when let my imagination run free and spend just about every waking moment askingówhat if? I go riding, and Iíll be asking Gencianna (my horse), what if people could live forever? Or Iíll be grooming the pig and asking her (there - I knew I could get Piggles into this blog somewhere!) I know weíre plotting a sci-fi, but what if the pilot of the space ship is actually a vampire? OrÖ

I believe everybody has to find the way that works best for them. Only by trying different methods are you going to do that. Donít ever believe just because someone tells you ďthatís the way things should be doneĒ that you have to follow them blindly (even if that person is Stephen King).

So what are you -† plotter, pantser, or maybe a unique hybrid of both?

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