Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Plotting and the Ability to be Flexible

The classic debate - plotter or pantser? Do you plan every inch of a new book when you start or write by the seat of your pants.

For me, I do a bit of both. When I first start out, it's an idea. A concept. It can start with something as simple as something I see (Heart for Rent, with an Option started from a walk through a French market in Aix). Then I build a story around it, and sometimes that initial inspiration is barely included in the end result. But it is the impetus. With that being said, I am a pantser. At least at the onset of each book. Somewhere along the line, I'm forced to plot to give the story direction.

Working on Kundigerin 2, the second in the Mist on the Meadow trilogy. I posted a couple weeks back that the story was taking me into different directions, that the characters were getting pushy. Yesterday I discovered something. My intended hero wasn't pulling his weight. Nothing like a road block to stop forward momentum! These are the points where I usually stop writing to plot. Enough writing by the seat of my pants--where is this story going? Oh, I know where the story is going. The general plot is clear, along with the plot for Book 3, but my hero? He doesn't have anything to do. Well, that's not entirely true, but he doesn't have enough to do. And then the next plot twist came to me. This isn't what I expected at all! And yet, deep down, I knew. As a writer, you always know. From the beginning, one of the characters has been giving me those sly looks that say, "you know I'm going to to take center stage. I'll just wait until you figure it out."

In my humble opinion, being a pantser works fine for the onset of a story. It is when I'm my most creative. But in nearly every story I've written, there comes a point when you need to pull it into focus. Identify the theme, the goals, the motivations, the conflicts, and lay them in a cohesive form. That's when the plotting takes over, and for me, I find that often my brain is pre-plotting during that pantser stage. Then again, sometimes I have to go back and pull out the stitches in the story and reweave them. Authors often have enough innate ability to direct their story, and some have to work harder at it than others. My process works for me, but other people I know balk at the idea. Some need more structure, the outline. Even with the outline and the framework laid out, a story will often redirect itself once the words begin to multiply on the page.

This is where flexibility comes in.

The new development in my latest writing endeavor is causing me a lot of heartache. Not that I don't like what's happening, but that it requires more from me, the author, to present it well. It's a challenge. The fact that it intrigues me, the author, gives me hope that it will strike a similar chord in my readers.

You know the old saying, Life doesn't always turn out the way you planned it.


  1. I always find your blog posts about the struggles, challenges, joys of writing a joy to read. Being a non-writer myself, I guess I lived under a rock and thought that writers never had any struggles. I thought that when they thought of a book, they just sat down and made the story flow. What an eye opener! I'm sure it's probably true of most writers. You do have a true talent for it - it's not something just anyone can do! Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks, M. And yes, it is a struggle some days! My hero in Kundigerin 2 is definitely not being easy to get along with. Definitely needing some plotting time with him.