About 100 years ago I promised I’d do a post on plotting. I’m slow, but I eventually follow through, people.
For Between, I mainly pantsed my way through the whole thing. There are things that happened when I was writing that even I didn’t see coming. I’d type it out and be like, “Whoa!!” That’s hard to explain to anyone who isn’t into writing- that your characters can take on a mind of their own and surprise you- but I’ve heard several writers talk about it so I’m NOT CRAZY.
I love that feeling- the not knowing exactly where it’s headed, and being delightfully surprised by whatever comes up. It’s part of what makes writing SO FUN.
Unfortunately, when you don’t know where you’re heading….you DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU’RE HEADING. This means lots of extra time writing, thinking, and editing (because your realize later that a whole lot of that stuff you wrote while you were just figuring stuff out has to go. Completely pointless.)
So. When I started work on the next book, I started looking into different methods of plotting. Some people come up with EXTREMELY detailed outlines. Others come up with spreadsheets to plan out all the major plot points.
I tried to plot. I couldn’t do it. As soon as I started planning stuff out, I got bored. It was like I’d already written the story–all the fun was sucked right out of it. There was no “wonder what will happen?” feeling when I wrote. I wrote the scenes, but it was just….dull.
And THEN- a lovely friend on Twitter introduced me to Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It’s a screenwriting method, but it works well for novels also. Basically, the book explains that every single story in the world can be broken into fifteen beats, and it helps you plan your own story in fifteen plot points. It has you plan JUST ENOUGH to know where you’re going, without planning so much that there’s absolutely no wiggle room. Elizabeth from Liz Writes Books is even lovely enough to have posted her own Save The Cat Beat Sheet for Novels on her blog! (***EDITED TO ADD- Liz commented on this post (YAY!) and posted a few more really great links for pantsers who need help with plotting. Be sure to check out the links in her post in the comments!)
I’ve been trying this out with my WIP, and it’s really made a difference. Now when I’m stuck, I just look to one of the scenes that I know will happen at some point, and write it. Working through the beats I’ve planned helps me to connect the dots later on. (I’m not the only one who writes out of order, right? I wouldn’t have any idea of how to sit down and write a story from beginning to end.)
What about you guys? Are you a pantser? Do you plot? If so, what method works for you?