Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Weaving in an extra plot line

Before I launch into my spiel for the day, I have to say BEBS, I'M SO SORRY I LEFT YOU OFF THE LIST of people who helped out with writing the book. Please, please, please send me an e-mail with your name and e-mail address so I can make sure you get credit for helping. So, so sorry.

Okay, moving on:

I love organizing.

I love making plans and lists and charts and systems and all those wonderful things.

Which is why it's a little odd to me that I've never been much of a "plotter" in my writing. I'm a planner in real life, and a "pantser" in writing. (A pantser is something writers say when they're referring to someone who writes "by the seat of their pants" rather than from a constructed plot.)

I've blogged before that I'm trending toward being a "plantser." I'm sure I'll be perfecting my system for writing for the rest of my life, and hopefully I will not always be making one of these:

This is a bunch of notecards taped to posters in my office.

The purple cards are the plot for my "completed" manuscript. And I say "completed" because those green cards are the scenes that need to be added because I've added a plot line. (This isn't critical info but I thought some might be curious - some of the note cards have pink flags. It's because I had a hard time quickly describing what was going on in that specific scene, and I thought that was probably a bad sign, that the character motives were murky. Some early on have green flags because I'd already woven the new plot into those scenes. And there's a yellow sticky note at the end reminding me of an alternate ending idea.)

The problem with "pantsing" it the way I did with this book is that you can write 55k, type The End, and realize you're really not done at all. That there's something wrong with the book, that it's missing something. Which is what happened here. Of course, had I plotted it out ahead of time, there's no guarantee I would have had the inspiration for the new plot quite yet, but I might have had better tools for discerning what was missing.

My friend Erica Vetsch does some awesome story boards. (As seen here.) Like me, she also started out as a pantser and has since converted. We're starting the Write Now program on Monday, January 3rd, 2011, and Erica's going to give us a little lesson in story boarding. I'm stoked.

By the way, my messy plot boards were making me crazy in my pretty new office, so I redid them. Yes, I'm weird. But they look so much better:


  1. I keep trying out various systems, but for my 150K novel, I gotta say that I wouldn't have had enough room for this approach, LOL. My method with that one was a stack of half-sheet of paper with scenes written out, with room at the bottom for notes as to whose POV it should be in, secondary plots that should be hinted at, etc. That method took me up to the last few chapters of the book, which I then referred back to my synopsis for. And which I had to rewrite after my first abysmal attempt, ha ha. Well, mostly I had to add a bunch of the secondary stuff in that I'd neglected in my rush to finish.

    I, too, am a plantser. I plot some and improvise plenty.

  2. Um, no that's true. This manuscript is about 60k, so yikes!

    I like your method too, particularly for books not written in first person.

  3. Wow. I'm loving the new noteboard, though!

  4. I'm a pantser... but I find that works out kind of well for me haha... well I think I'm sort of a panster, but then I have a ton of stuff in my head that I just write down as I go.
    I have thousands of scenes in my head, and somehow I magically never forget them. Or I just change them and make them better when I start writing them haha.