Thursday, July 10, 2008

Of plots and pantsers

I've been marveling at how my writing process seems to have turned a complete 180. And funny enough my friend - the wonderfully talented Lacey Savage - has been marveling about the same thing. (She has a blog about it here)

Usually I loosely figure out what my characters want and go from there. I HATE plotting. I hate it with a passion. I can never get it to a point where I like it, I paralyze myself with too many "buts" and usually by about 6K in, I decide to change everything anyway. My life as a pantser. (quick 411 -- a plotter is a writer who plots. A pantser is a writer to flies through the story by the seat of their pants)

Something changed recently. I started plotting... And the coolest thing with this new processes of plotting is that I actually not.

Now I've only done 2 stories like that --but so far it seems to fly.

The first thing I do is build the world. Don't matter if its now or aeons from now. I build the rules of my setting.

Next I do a GMC chart. This is the best tool eva -- basically its a chart detailing the main characters' goals, motivations and conflicts. (Check out GMC by Debra Dixon -- its one of those must haves on the writer's shelf IMO) The GMC chart will be in constant flux, but it gives me a good jump start on the next step...

The Snowflake. Basically its a series of steps designed by a software engineer. (Google Snowflake Writing method and hit the first link.) Each step is designed to move you further into the story, and it alternates between "main story" and "characters" story. And as long as you remember that as you move forward you are allowed and encouraged to change you mind, its a wonderful tool to delve from top level of your story into the fine detail.

There's no plotting really -- it just sort of organically grows as you get to know your characters and what major events happen in the story. As you build on that, the story shapes up... So far I haven't actively plotted anything -- at least not for the sake of plotting. Instead, I figured out what happens to my characters and how they overcome their obstacles. Plot? Done.

The best part for me is the second to last step. This is where you take a descriptions of each scene and write "about" it. I can just see the dreaded "show don't tell" rule shuddering.

I "tell" each scene - writing rapid paragraphs about each scene, including anything that comes to mind about it. Bits of dialog, cool setting, a right-on-the-spot word. As I write Dark Lotus, I have the pre-draft ready in 2 nights. And some of it is really solid work.

When I open the predraft to actually write, the words just seem to pour...


Lacey Savage said...

Fi -- how cool that this is working so well for you! I love that the words are flowing. No matter how you get there, that's really the most important part: getting words down on the screen.

But... umm... I hate to break it to you, but "figuring out what happens to your characters and how they overcome their obstacles" IS plotting. *g* It doesn't have to involve charts or crazy formulas. Plotting is knowing in advance what's going to happen, and whatever method you use to figure that out is the plotting process.



Crazy Lady said...

SHHHHH! LACEY! Don't TELL her that. Sheesh.


But seriously, Fiona, SO glad this new method is being so kind to you and that you're enjoying yourself so much. Congrats!


Fiona Jayde said...

Thanks Amy and Lacey!

And um... You know, I always thought plotting was something that happened and the characters reacted TO it...

Reactive vs proactive I guess.

Talk about learning something new:)
(Lacey, I should have come to you with this in the first place!!!)