Friday, January 23, 2015

Does Plotting Have To Be Hard?

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

One of the biggest problems I run into when I'm giving other writers advice is remembering just who I stole it from. I'd like to be an honest thief at least and give credit where it's due, but we hear things over and over again and from different folks and eventually the original source is forgotten entirely.

So, to whoever said this first, I apologize. But I know for certain that James Scott Bell has said it on multiple occasions and has included it in his book Plot & Structure. A book I absolutely recommend, by the way. All that said, take a look at this tid-bit and then let's talk about it.



I'm in the early stages of writing a shiny new story and as I sink into the process I've decided something. Sometimes I make the whole plotting thing so difficult. I have charts and scene breakdowns and reversals to work in. I have coded index cards and a series of multi-colored markers.

ALL GOOD THINGS, friends. Hear me, these are not bad tools. But if I'm honest, I can sit at my desk for eight hours, play with these tools, and get nowhere with my story.

I find I make the most important kind of progress when I keep it simple. And there's nothing more simple than this concept. Create a character. Give him a problem. Give him another one. And then when he can't possibly take anything else, resolve the thing.

It's so simple. And yet, we find variations of this model in every successful book.

Perhaps, during the writing of a story, we should free ourselves from the juggling act that is pinpointing each story element. Perhaps we should leave that to those who find joy in dissecting our stories.

I don't know. Am I oversimplifying things now?

It's possible.

But, I'll tell you this. Once I set my fancy plotting techniques aside and focused solely on the rocks I wanted to throw at my heroine, I plotted my entire story in less than a half hour.

Now, it's a story I've been thinking about and toying with for a while. The ideas were floating around in my noggin, but I had to abandon my own self-imposed process before I could lay the scenes out in a manner that made sense.

And I wonder if keeping it simple would help you too.

What do you think? Is your dependence on a certain process crippling you? Is it making the writing more difficult than it needs to be? How do you keep it simple?

29 comments:

  1. I love having a simple structure while plotting. When I found GTW, I was so happy to find this Three-Act Structure printout (here: http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2012/09/understanding-three-act-structure.html), because up until that point I'd just been writing the points down on paper. But the printout is extremely helpful for keeping everything sorted out. :) Thank you, Mrs. Dittemore!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jill and Steph have put together SO MANY wonderful handouts. I wish my brained worked like theirs.

      Delete
  2. I used to be a pantser until recently. My stories lost their fizz very early, and to avoid that in my WIP, I tried some new stuff.

    I still haven't settled with a plotting process yet. You're right, Mrs. Dittemore...Simplicity in necessary. I'll be munching on this post all day. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jill, Steph, and I were just talking about how our processes have changed with each book. I don't know if we ever stop learning.

      Delete
  3. I like to write it as it comes, but as far as plotting goes this seems good. I tried plotting recently, but it seemed to restrict me, so I gave it up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is definitely an art to the discipline, but I'm like you. Simple helps.

      Delete
  4. I have a hard time with plotting beforehand in general (with first drafts, at least) but I've been trying a little more structure lately...I've found a loose plotting plan with plenty of wiggle room is best for me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I need to plot using key scenes or the basic three act structure if I want to get anywhere. I get stuck so easily without a basic, simple plan. If I get complicated and fancy with the planning I lose steam right away. Thank you for the post! I'm in the epiphany through climax stages of my first draft right now and have been wondering the points as I go!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love this idea! I agree that plotting can be so complicated sometimes... When I was little, it came so much easier, but then, the ideas weren't as good. I brainstorm by hand-- literally writing down my whole thought process. It's like thinking, but louder. : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a pal who writes everything by hand first as well. I'm in awe. I definitely scribble plot points and brainstorming sessions, but most everything else is done on the computer.

      Delete
  7. I have a few stories that need plotting, and I should give this way a go!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

      Delete
  8. Hehe, I usually have everything planned out in a document (or my head) and keep it there until it's time to use it. I'm reminding myself of Jill's post from yesterday, bu some of what I've planned out can't possibly pop up in book one.
    Thanks for the post, even if I am a planster(ish thing)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone thrives in their own system. Truly. There is no ONE WAY. And I've changed my own process many, many times. Growth is key, I think.

      Delete
  9. Plotting stresses me out. Don't get me wrong, I do believe a certain amount of planning is necessary but I also think that too much plotting and sketching and thinking about what the story will turn out like is procrastination for the actual writing of the story.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I laughed way too hard at the quote. It's helpful to think of it that way, though!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I don't know if this is weird, but I don't have trouble plotting-I have trouble sticking to my plotline!

    But really, I think plotting is important-without a stable plotline it's hard to keep your story from getting out of hand and trailing off, if you know what I mean.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's very important to let yourself stray form your plot from time to time. It's good to be surprised as an author. It guarantees surprise in the reader and that's always a good thing.

      Delete
  12. I love that quote. It is so simple and yet so true. I kind of like putting myself through a complicated plotting process just because it gives me reassurance and helps me get through the first draft. Everyone's different, though, so I can see how it might be more beneficial for other writers to keep the plotting process simple.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely right. We're all so different and it's important to recognize the value in everyone's own process.

      Delete
  13. Wow. Thank you for this. I think I needed to hear it this weekend. :) When the writing process feels too restrictive or not fun or just isn't working, try something else and stop making this too complicated! Yes, me! :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Okay, just have to say how much I love that quote. And it's so impossibly true, too! It hurts to hurt "your people" because you love them, their like your children, and you want everything to go well for them, but you just have to do it.

    ReplyDelete

Home