Friday, June 04, 2010


Writing processes intrigue me.
How writers write.
Do they plot? Fly by the seat of their pants? Write to music? Write in silence? Have some magical trick to make words pour out?
If a writer's most commonly asked question is 'where do you get your ideas from?', a close second would be 'how do you write your books?'
Or more technically, 'how do you plot?'
When I first started writing, I was a plotter.
I played around with character charts, answering questions on my hero and heroine, filling in an art sheet with a basic story outline. It helped me, knowing where I was heading with a story.
Then somewhere along the line I changed.
These days, I'm a pantser.
Don't get me wrong, I still need to do a little pre-writing plotting. I need to know my characters but I focus more on their motivations and what drives them rather than knowing their hobbies and family.
I need to know they'll be in conflict and how, not their favourite car or their star sign.
So I jot down a page or two of motivations and conflict. And off I go. Flying by the seat of my pants. And the ride's exhilirating each and every time!
That said, I'm still intrigued by plotting.
And if I get stuck in the sagging middle or need clarification, I always resort to trusty pen and paper to roughly plot the rest of the story=one sentence to describe what needs to happen in each chapter to the end of the book.
There's something comforting in having those sentences, like signposts guiding me to the end. And it makes me write quicker too.
So back to the methodology of writing.
I've read resource books on plotting, have enjoyed them, but they scare me.
Similarly the index card method and breaking your story into acts with climax points and turning points. Fascinating but scary!
I like the uncertainty of not knowing where my characters will lead me.
I like giving them free rein.
But I swear my inner plotter is tempted by all that structured lining up color coded cards on a wall...
So what works best for you?


Rebecca B said...

Great post! I am, so far, an outliner/plotter. It's working well for my WIP, but I am itching to try being a "pantser" for a future project.

Lacey Devlin said...

Fascinating post. It's interesting to see how much your process has changed. I think I'm a hybrid but at the moment I'm probably leaning toward being a pantser.

Nicola Marsh said...

Give it a try, Rebecca.
Will be interesting to see how you find it.

Nicola Marsh said...

I used to be a hybrid too, Lacey, but now firmly leaning towards the pantsing side.

Weird how I changed so much!

Kerrin said...

yes Nicola, i'm a plotter at heart but then found i got bored because my brain was like but i've already written it, i know what's happened, i've finished!
So this time, i'm writing this one by the seat of my pants! The plotter in me is demanding i stop and write an outline, so i know bits and pieces of what is going to happen in the story but i haven't written it down, i'm still letting the characters direct me! It's so much fun!!

Nicola Marsh said...

I've heard that many times, Kerrin (from pantsers) that they'd get bored if they plotted, feeling like they know the story.

Great you're trying something different with this manuscript!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I love hearing how people write too. But when I start seeing tons of sticky notes and graphs and charts, I do get a little scared. LOL
I would LOVE to be that organized.

Kristina said...

I think I'm a pant-lotter. I (usually) have a general not-very-filled-in outline with some goals and motivations for the book as a whole...but nothing concrete. I need to not know exactly where I'm going to get there.

Nicola Marsh said...

I get a bit scared too, Jennifer.

Seeing people that organised intimidates me!

Nicola Marsh said...

You've coined a new phrase, Kristina, love it!