Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Plotting, Structure, and I'm Not the Pantser I Thought I Was

In my search for a way to overcome my inability to finish a story, I've read several book on plot and structure. And through all my reading it became clear that the subtext of all these books was "If you try to pants your way through this, if you don't know how to structure your novel in your bones, you will be rewriting until the dawn of the eternity."

So here's my little confession. I decided a long time ago that I'd rather be a pantser because it "seemed" easier than plotting out and organizing a novel before hand. Yes. I am lazy. But after years of failed attempts, I realized I just didn't have the imagination to pants a story from beginning to end.

So with my latest WIP I've been working through a synopsis, chapter by chapter, to give myself a blueprint of sorts to make this writing thing hopefully go a little easier.

A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed the cool confines of a gorgeous cabin for the ANWA southwest region retreat. Three days of writing and classes and associations with my fellow writers. I loved every second of it.
During the retreat, Tina Scott gave a class where she broke down a book I'd purchased earlier this year, called Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. I recommend it, along with Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Both of them explain in step by step detail how to set down before hand what you need to create a compelling and exciting story beginning to end.

Though I'd read the books, having her pull out the important parts made me realize where I was going wrong in my storytelling. I wasn't writing to or away from major points in the story, places where the MC had to make a decision that changed everything for them. And I needed to figure out the rough word count of when those elements need to make an appearance. For me, aiming to write about 80,000 words for a YA paranormal, that means the 1st major plot point needs to happen around 20k, the Midpoint at 40k, and the 2nd plot point at 60k. And everything needs to work towards those points, building tension, or away from them, because of the reaction of the characters to that decision.

Epiphany! It finally clicked! Hallelujah! Right after class I wrote down on a single sheet everything that happens at those major points, plus a few key moments before and after to help me remember what I'm writing toward.
Now I can break down the novel into these smaller, more manageable bits and it won't be an overwhelming task I had supposed to finish a first draft.

I hope.


  1. Wow, sounds like a plan! I got to get me some of those books...

  2. I'm a panster,but after "pantsing" my first draft, I do a rough outline. Therefore, my first draft is basically my outline. My second draft is usually a complete rewrite. So far this is working for me, though it is a very slow process. I sometimes wish I could convert to outlining first, but so far it hasn't worked. I'm still trying though!

  3. I'm an outline girl myself. But that's because that is how my mentor taught me. I find my chapters to tend to write themselves and I can add alot more of the *funny* when I'm not worried about what happens.



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