Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Pantser's Plotting Plan

Laurie here! Hello from my editing cave :) Nice to see you. Today, I'm revisiting one of my favorite posts -- the first time this pantser ever attempted plotting. As I do final revisions on my third manuscript, I can safely tell you I will NEVER write a book without a plan again. Weeding through all of this is not for the faint of heart. So I hope you enjoy! And I hope you do as I say, not as I do... :)


I am not a plotter. This is no secret if you know me or have read any of my blog posts. My stories start with characters, and the plot comes along as I go. In the past, I’ve maintained that plotting stifles creativity in my case. But I want to go on record and amend this statement.

It’s all the time wasted banging my head on the keyboard wondering what to write next that stifles my creativity.

For the first time in the history of my life, I’ve discovered a plotting book that doesn’t make my eyes glaze over after the first chapter. In fact, I'm almost finished!

It’s well-written, informative, and doesn’t have the confusing code language some of the other ones seem to have. The focus of Jordan Rosenfeld's Make a Scene is building a story intentionally based on each scene. Stories tend to come to me in glimpses anyway -- kind of like movie clips -- so this approach works. But the key I need to work on is developing a framework so I don’t have to do so much editing and reworking after my first draft. I need the puzzle box with the big picture to help me piece it together, so that if and when I become a published author, I can deliver my finished product in a timely manner with as little stress possible. :)

Author friend Jessica Patch recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad. As you can see from the notebook above, I’ve been going all Hermione Granger on it with several pages of notes over the holidays. I’ll be sharing much more about what I’m learning later, but for starters, this is my tentative plan for how I’m going to plot my current manuscript:

Character studies. I wrote an entire blog post on what goes into this process for me not too long ago, but to sum up, I learn about their quirks, deepest desires, the ways they sabotage themselves, and what sets them apart as people I’d enjoy talking to over a slice of pizza.

Plot threads. Hopefully in the above step, I’ve learned at least the gist of what my main characters will learn and how they’ll grow throughout the story (the heart of the manuscript!). So my next step is to write out a shortish sort of synopsis for each of my storylines -- as much as I know about them already, anyway.

For example, continuing the theme of Pepper’s post yesterday, if I were doing this for the Lord of the Rings series, I’d have one “synopsis” for the ring’s journey from Bag End to Mordor, one for Aragorn’s ascent to king, one for the Battle of Helm’s Deep, one for Aragorn and Arwen’s love story, etc.

It sounds complicated, but it really helps. I think having a map like this up front will show me what to focus on and how to most effectively strengthen each plotline (and consequently each main character's journey) in relation to the others.

Scenes. From there, I can separate the sequential events of the synopsis into bullet points and then imagine specific scenes to flesh out these bullet points and further my story. For this step, I will likely stick to my pantser roots and write as I go. But having the map shaped in the previous steps will help me keep my characters on track and hopefully give me purpose for each writing session. I can’t emphasize how much the Make a Scene book has helped me in terms of being intentional/impactful with each scene!

So that’s the tentative plan for how this pantser is going to try her hand at plotting. I have all the essentials to make this work.

Now to stop planning and WRITE. Hopefully word count will be spared, the delete button will get a rest, and any unnecessary *facepalm* moments will be avoided.

Are you a plotter, pantser, or as Casey calls it, a hybrid "plotster"? Any tips or tricks that have worked for you?


Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is passionate about intentional living, all things color-coded, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Previously a full-time book publicist, she owns a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She's a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a two-time Genesis Award winner, and the runner-up in the 2015 Lone Star Contest's Inspirational category. 
Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.

You can connect with Laurie here:
Twitter - @LaurieTomlinson


Christen E. Krumm said...

Oh I needed this today! Thanks much!


Unknown said...

Hi Laurie: I really like the image you provided, depicting the ‘the minimum essentials’ that writers need to create their art. I especially liked the pictures of the beverage cup and ‘All’ pens on standby. I found your post to be ‘light’ and quite motivating. I intend to check into the book you recommended and view your website.
Thanks again for sharing your knowledge, and experience. My best, Mary

Robin E. Mason said...

plotser / pantzer, po-tay-to / po-tah-to! ha!
i'm a "pantzer" hands down, i've tried plotting and it confuses me more than not! go figure!
case in point—my current WIP was looking a bit bare bones so i went back to add some "meat." which is great, only 'cept i had already written the fire scene and had a hard time remembering NOT to reference it—since it hadn't happened yet! gotta write my scenes in order as they come to me!
oh, and how i keep it "organized?" i take copious notes of every name and place and event / year so i know who/what/when/where....

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@ Christen - you bet!!

@ Mary - Hope it's helpful for you. I think you'll enjoy that book!

@ Robin - I definitely go "off-book" a lot. This next book I write, I'm going to try to plot it so I at least have some inspiration. I like to write out of order, too :)