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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Map your Rout or Fly into the Mist

December 2011
This is often a hot topic for writers, so I should just say, this is just my take on this subject.
I am a pantser. A flyer into the mist, as Jo Beverly says. I have tried to be a plotter. I did plot a complete book once, but I never even started writing it, or at least I had the first page done when I started plotting according to some grand scheme or other, and that is where it sits two years later. I was bored knowing how it all unfolded.
I have to keep going back to my mantra. Every writer is different. What works for one does not work for another.
Then why this article I hear you ask. Or is that me asking? Why bother? Well, to be honest, I just can’t help thinking about this stuff.
Here’s the thing – story is story. The art of writing story is as old as pictographs. There are certain things stories should have – at least in genre fiction. Certain peaks and valleys every story must touch. We’ve all taken the workshops, we all understand the concepts and the need for structure if you want readers to turn the pages. Hero’s journey, W plotting, three act structure, six stage structure,  any advance on six — do I hear a 9? All great, by the way. Great. Helpful. Wonderful that writers have taken the time to offer these tools to other writers.

As far as I can figure it out, what a pantser does (no no there I go generalizing again) what I do, is go back and make sure the story hits the highs and lows required once the draft is done.

These are the questions I ask myself. What are my goals motivations and conflicts for the happy couple? Yes by this time they are the happy couple. Are they clear to the reader and not just in my head?
Where are my turning points? Did I take too long to get there? – thus losing tension along the way.
Is the black moment black enough? Is it driven by the romance or the external plot? Does it work?
Coming in January from Harlequin Historicals
For me, the key scene by scene test  is as follows:
What changed? Who is worse off now than at the beginning of the scene? If no one is, then it needs fixing. Could something even worse have happened? How does it tie back to their goal, their worst fear or their conflict. Is what they have decided to do next reasonable and does it lead to yet more conflict?
Are the motivations clear to the reader? In that particular scene, not the whole book.  Whatever the character does, is it clear why the character does it? And the answer cannot be that the plot requires that they do that. If the plot requires an unarmed woman to go into a dark basement for no good reason, the reader will not buy it.

Without plotting the book, don’t you go off track?  That is a plotter asking, of course.
The answer is. Yes. Terribly. The last book I handed in, well I just never did get hold of that sucker by the date it was due.  And that’s where your editor and/or your critique group can help.  And that is why you need to go back and use the tools in your toolbelt  to polish and sand and rub.  Or at least I do. And I did. Hopefully it turned out much better.
Well that was fun. My guess is there are all kinds of writers out there in addition to Plotters and Pansters, for example:
February 2012  
Pl-antsers   -    they pants a bit and plot a bit, then pants a bit more then plot ….
Plo-sters    -    They get an outline going through to the end then fly off the cliff, catching the odd tree branch
                       they planted on the way down, then leap again
Palonstters -     who knows what they do, but they do it well
I wish to every success no matter how you spell what you are.

At the end of the day, it is the story that really matters to readers.  But as I said, this is often a hot topic.


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