January 30, 2012

Why I'm a Plotter

Writing confession: I used to be a pantser.

This worked fine for short stories and drabbles. But for longer, chaptered stories, this resulted in meandering scenes, vague plots, and then surprise twists that weren't properly foreshadowed at the end. Pantsing works for a lot of writers, but it clearly wasn't working for me. I turned to outlining.

My first original manuscript (I wrote a couple novel-length fanfics) was a partial pants job because I wrote it for NaNoWriMo and my outlines had yet to reach any sort of coherent structure. I had only outlined part of the book, and I didn't actually know how it would end. To make my daily word count, I wrote down whatever struck me, and once I passed the 50k mark, I was so burned out that I just stopped even though the book was far from finished and I still had a week left in November.

It took me months to continue writing it (thanks to Tithe), and over a year to fix the mess I'd made. I had even skipped an entire plot point that I hadn't known how to resolve and left a note reminding me to come back and fill it in. *facepalm*

Learning to outline.

My second manuscript, in comparison, was meticulously outlined. I prepared by thoroughly world-building, completing simple character sheets (I'll cover character sheets in a future post), and writing a structured outline broken down into acts and scenes. As a result, I completed my first draft in four weeks.

Why outline?

• There's less chance of running into a plot hole b/c you'll hopefully have sorted those out BEFORE starting to write. Being able to look at the plot and story events as a whole works wonders for spotting inconsistencies and plot holes.

• There's also less chance of hitting writer's block. Having an outline means you know exactly what needs to happen and how to get there, so you can power on.

• Being able to look at the story as a whole can also help you spot issues with pacing. You can easily see the scenes that might sag and quickly make changes in order to avoid massive rewrites later on.

Stay flexible!

Being a plotter doesn't mean I stick rigidly to my outline. There can and WILL be surprises along the way. There were moments while writing my second manuscript when a new scene naturally developed that hadn't been in my outline, and I went with it. There were also moments when a plot idea struck me, and I made adjustments accordingly.

The purpose of an outline is to be your map. Some writers like to set out into the writing wild and find their way as they go. Some work well with only a compass to point them in the right direction. I like to have a clearly plotted route, with each stop marked along the way.

But that doesn't mean I can't take detours or change my final destination :)

Today's art: Rokudo Mukuro (I've been feeling nostalgic)

Have a great week! ♥

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