Tuesday, October 8, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013: Plotting, Pantsing, or Both?

Writers tend to identify as plotters, who plot their novels ahead of time to some degree, anywhere from a few notes to detailed outlines, or as pantsters, who "fly by the seat of their pants" and let the story develop as they write it. The official NaNoWriMo guide book is No Plot? No Problem! (and you can get an autographed copy of it from their store), so their love of pantsters is well known.

When I first started NaNoing, I was a pantster. However, as I wrote more novels I realized that pantsing wasn't for me. At about 30,000 words I would hit a wall of writer's block, give up on the project and walk away to find a newer, shinier idea. Converting to plotting allowed me to move past that block, because if I got stuck on a scene, I could skip it and move on to the next. I often use placeholders in brackets like [fight scene here] or [ninjas!] when struggling with a scene, and then fill the details in during a later draft.

Thankfully, NaNo allows plotting:
Outlines and plot notes are very much encouraged, and can be started months ahead of the actual novel-writing adventure. Previously written prose, though, is punishable by death.
So today I'm sharing some of my favorite plotting thingies. First, I like WriteWay. It allows me to develop character profiles and paste them from book to book, and it has a useful outline feature. I have author friends who are fans of Scrivener, though I've never used it.

One simple plotting exercise that I like involves lined note cards, like index cards. You start with 10 cards. You write your opening scene on the first card, your ending on the tenth card, and then start filling in the scenes that have to happen in between. Take A New Hope, for example. Card one is the opening where Princess Leia hides the Death Star plans on R2D2. Card ten is the Death Star exploding, and the rebels rejoicing. Each card between describes the steps taken in the story to move from one to ten.

Now, as you know, I write romance novels. One of my very favorite articles on plotting is "Do All Roads Lead to Plot Mapping?" from Romance University. Author Tracy Montoya gives an overview of the map, using examples from the Sandra Bullock movie "While You Were Sleeping." This was super helpful to me, because I've seen that movie many times so the examples Tracy gave immediately made sense.

I have several articles on plotting as part of my Storyteller: A Gamer's Approach to Writing series, including Story Structure: Levels, Bosses and Rising and Falling Action; The Impenetrable Forest: Steering Your Characters Down the Right Path; The Burning Van: When Your Adventure Gets Away From You; and Critical Fail: Making Your Characters Suffer.

Do you have any plotting techniques you'd like to share?

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