Thursday, October 7, 2010

Got Plot?

NaNoWriMo. I'm committed. I'm adding writing buddies and discussing plans. I have an idea of what I want to write, which is more than I had my first time around, but I don't have an outline. Yet!

Once upon a time I was a pantser. I'd dive into a story with great character ideas and no clue as to what those characters were going to do, other than fight evil and live happily ever after. It didn't work out. Without fail I would hit a wall around 30k words and be unable to finish the story. A few months after my first NaNo I joined Romance Writers of America, and I learned a lot more about the craft of writing. I've read articles and books, I've taken online workshops, I've been to conferences, and I learned that if I want to push past that 30k block, I need to sit my butt down and plot out the story from beginning to end. That way if I do get stuck I can skip ahead to the next step and come back to the problem later.

It started with the note card exercise, which I learned from a NaNo forum. You take 10 index cards, and write your opening scene on the first one and your ending on the last. Then you write the steps that need to happen to get from the beginning to the end on the cards in between. Need more scenes? Add more cards. It's quick, it's simple, and it can be very helpful in figuring out the "and then what happens?" of your story.

Next came writing software. I use WriteWayPro, and I love it. But I use it mainly for plotting and for character information (I adore the fact that you can add a picture in your character bios, I've spent many hours casting characters in the Blood, Smoke and Mirrors universe). WriteWay has a great outline feature, but it's a blank slate. Staring at the empty outline can be as intimidating as staring at an empty page.

Enter the next step in my writing evolution: the plot map. This article was very helpful to me, and it's a great explanation of how to pace a story using the example of a movie that I dig (While You Were Sleeping). It draws from Vogler's book The Writer's Journey; I'm reading it at the moment. Slowly. Mostly while on lunch break at my Shiny New Job. Hypothetically I'm also reading the copy of Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces that Diana let me borrow several months ago...have I mentioned lately how hugenormous my TBR bookcase is? Seriously. Gigantic.

Anyway, by these powers combined I have conquered plotting, muahaha! Okay, maybe not so much. My process is always evolving. I love buying more craft books and taking new online workshops. Obviously I have room to grow as a writer (or so the intarwebs tell me)(apparently I made someone want to throw their Kindle against a wall)(I in no way condone violence against Kindles). So, are you a plotter? Are there any methods that you love? Or are you panster all the way, and think I'm trying to convert you to the dark side?


Elizabeth said...

I plot. But I use the "This happens, so then this has to happen, so then that other thing happens..." method. I don't think about turning points or tension patterns or stuff like that. (Though I plan to try that for the next book.)

Used to be a pantser, and it worked beautifully for first drafts. Stopped because revision was agony and I didn't want to write at all, knowing it was waiting for me.

Diana said...

Pantser with aspirations to be a plotter. I think the dual death knells of my pantsing practices were 1) the infamous cast of thousands and 2) this year's saga of ripping apart SoD and pasting it back together, bit by bit.