Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Plotting - I so want to, but...

I've written three books. The first was the result of a weird idea I woke up with. I didn't know a thing about writing (hmm, that may have changed a little, may need to change a lot more!) I have degrees in Physics and Engineering and train horses. Not much for the writing experience.
So I pantsed my way to a complete 70k word YA Fantasy, realized through a few contests and conferences that I didn't even have a plot. Rewrote. Joined a critique group. Rewrote. More contests and a couple submissions. Set the poor thing aside-that's what you're supposed to do with the first book, right?
Woke up with another oh, so brilliant idea for an MG sci-fi. Pantsed 40k words. Scoffed at anyone who thought outlining was the way to go. How could I - a geeky engineer do creative stuff if I planned it, this was all left brain stuff, no room for right brain! I did try. I wrote the MG sequel with a 2-page outline. Didn't follow it, but I did write aiming for certain high and low points and think I did a pretty decent job.
Now I want to go back to my first book because I love the world and it's set up nicely for a five book series. Umm. I'm pretty sure I can't do that by the seat of my pants. Freeze!

Yeah, like that.
Then I discovered Larry Brooks. Story Engineering. Story Physics. Check him out, along with his Storyfix blog. Amazing! He's speaking my language - engineering, physics. Now he doesn't say you can't be a panster, it's just another way of discovering the real story. Alright, I'm listening.
He makes a lot of sense. I agree - if I want to write a marketable book, my story must have certain elements that people expect in their entertainment. It should be so much easier to plan those elements ahead of time rather than edit them in later. Right?
Hmm, I'm not good at that. I stared at a blank page for days. I did create a spreadsheet with a grid for the story elements of the book I'm planning, a sequel to my first YA. It might work. But before I start the second book, I really need to know where the series is going. Wow, that's way beyond outlining a simple story line! Totally frozen now.
Last night as I was supposed to be falling asleep, I had a great idea. Maybe I shouldn't be outlining the storyline, maybe I can do this by planning a character arc.
Melt. The creative juices start flowing. The interesting thing? I used my antagonist's arc and everything fell into place. The reason I was stuck and this approach worked? Because my antagonist is the constant through all five books. I have different heroes in each book although they play supporting roles in the others. For those of you who have read Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality I'm going for something like that. See why I MUST plot this one?
I would LOVE to hear how you approach your story ideas, especially a series. How do you start the plotting process? Do you think of each book from the start or one at a time? Any advice for a newbie to plotting?
Please keep scrolling down after you comment for a cover reveal of THE KEEPERS by Anoosha Lalani.


  1. Man, do I hear where you're coming from. My suggestion is that you check out Holly Lisle's classes at HowToThinkSideways.com (I'll put a link below). The classes are online, you do them at your own pace, and most are cheap, starting at as little as 99 cents. One of them--"How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn't Suck"--is actually free. Her "Create a Plot Clinic" is almost sure to help you solve your story's issues. I also highly recommend "How to Write Page Turning Scenes" and the "How to Write a Series" Expansion (which costs more and is also currently going on in real time, so you'd be doing some catch-up, but it's totally worth it).

    There's also a fabulous support group available in her "Boot Camp" forums.

    Highly, highly recommended. I'm an inveterate pantser myself, guilty on all charges of plotlessness. But with the guidance of some of these classes, I'm at the end stages of plotting a story that I can't WAIT to sit down and write. Check her out: http://howtothinksideways.com/

    And good luck!!

    (I don't get anything for recommending her. She does have an available affiliate opportunity, but I'm not an affiliate. I've just found that her methods do work, and I'm happy to spread the word!!)

  2. Thank you soooo much for this feedback. I'll definitely check this out. As I'm working my first book through my critique group, they're making me put the character motivation in that I didn't understand the first time. So much more work this way!

  3. You're welcome! Actually you might want to check out the "How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn't Suck" course, which addresses character motivation (among other things). Actually I think the methods recommended there are useful for just about any work--and like I said, it's free. Hope to see you on the boards! (Oh--I'm "justmel." :) )

  4. In my experience, all I need to know is where I am when the story starts and where I will end my story. The rest I pantser through. I tried outlining a novel, and it's still not written. I tried just pantsering my way through another one, and I never finished it. But when I know how it ends, and just write the scenes as they come to me (wherever in the polished story they will end up), then I have a complete story to work with. And the fun starts: Revising!

    1. I love revising! And I do love seeing what unfolds as a punster. While I may try to add some plotting, I think it will have to just be a very rough guide. Thanks for commenting.