Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Plotting-do you do it?

I always enjoyed mysteries, thrillers and suspense but I was told to write this genre you had to be very good at plotting. Hmmm. Plotting means outline, directions, timelines. Yeah, um, no. I don't do that. I tried it once and was so bored with the story by the time I did all the things you are supposed to do to be a plotter--scene outlines, chapter outlines, post-it notes, color coded plot points--that I never wrote the book. And so, sadly I thought I could never write a mystery/thriller.
Still I had this idea and these characters that would not go away. Someone said to me, write it. What do you have to lose? So, I did. I wrote it my way. I set off at the beginning with a general idea of where I was going and didn't even figure out who the bad guy was until the end. It was fun for me. Now the scary part- let someone else read it and have to listen to them tell me how poorly plotted it was-because well, it was. I didn't write a single outline or use even a tiny post-it. What came next was interesting. "Tightly plotted," they said. "I had no idea who did it until the end-then went back and saw all the clues." That book was Mr. Charming. So I thought, okay, let's fool them again. So, I wrote Dream Man and got, "Crazy how you weave all the bits together, leaving nothing to dangle." "A roller coaster ride of suspense." Hmmm, maybe just maybe I can write mystery suspense without all those graphs and charts and outlines.
The point in this story is: don't let what other people say is "the way" to do things discourage you from trying something. Yes, yes, most people save a lot of time and energy if they plot or outline. blah, blah, blah. But if it just doesn't work for you, don't let that keep you from writing the story you are supposed to tell. Every single one of us is different. There is room to try it your way. And if that doesn't work, you can always try something else. That's the puzzle part of writing-trying out new ways of doing things and seeing if they fit. Then discarding those that don't and moving on. The key is to not get discouraged if it doesn't work for you. Embrace your own true nature and above all-have fun!


India Drummond said...

I do a hybrid of plotting and writing by the seat of my pants. I sketch a basic, fluid outline of what I think should happen, in one or two sentences, per chapter.

It's a very fluid thing though and always changes as I go along.

I've found, however, that if I don't do this, I don't finish and sometimes write myself into a corner I can't get out of.

I have to have something to help keep me in my own lane. :)

Jessica Nelson said...

I agree Nancy. There's so much info out there that I think writers think there's a perfect, right way to write, and there's not.

I'm not a plotter. I'd be like you, bored stiff, if I had to write it all out. *grin*

Heather Snow said...

I, too, do a bit of both. I would love to be a total plotter. My nature is to be a total plotter. But I find as I'm in the middle of the scene or book that I must do some pantsing to keep the creativity flowing.

Still, I can't write without plotting at least the general outline of each scene...otherwise I go astray and waste too much time.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi India, a combo of fluid and plot is good. I find all stories to be more liquid than solid up until they are published. :)

Hi Jessica, it's so true. All the info does make you feel as if there is a right way to write- almost like a supersition. If you don't do it one way you'll never get published. So untrue.

Hi Heather- so nice to meet you in person. Congrats on winning the Fire and Ice contest!! Best of luck on your GH final.

Theresa Milstein said...

You're right, there's no perfect method for writing. Some outline, write bios for each character, and who knows what else. Not me.

I'm glad you have a way that works for you.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Theresa,

Thanks for stopping by. It's so true and important that writer's not limit themselves because they were told it had to be done a way they "can't" do. cheers~

Talli Roland said...

I plot the turning points, climax and resolution for the plot and subplot. And that's about it!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I’d love to be able to outline, but I can’t do it either. Whatever you are doing works – I so enjoyed every page of Mr. Charming. (By the way, I’m sorry to be so slow in getting reviews posted on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. but it IS on my to-do list). I think it is excellent advice to let writers know they need to do what works for them - not what works for someone else.

Jen said...

I've tried the whole plotting thing but I realize I am a panster at heart. I'm also backwards I'll write the book and then I'll outline. It sounds silly but I'm able to outline how I want the story to flow after I've written it, I know everything that's going to happen so then it makes it easier!

Fantastic post! I found your blog thanks to Talli Roland!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Talli, love your new pen name! I wish I could plot out turning points. I know people who plot out each hook at the end of each chapter.It's all about finding what works for you, isn't it? Congrats on your recent book sale.

Hi Jane, so glad you enjoyed Mr. Charming. No worries about the reviews. I was happy to share. :)