Friday, February 8, 2013

Liane's Doing the Pants off Write Off (Plotless Plotting)

It's not that I haven't tried to plot. I've probably tried every method possible. Sometimes twice. But no matter how exhaustive the advanced planning, my beginning product and my end product have little to do with one another. Assuming I ever make it to the end.

For me, stories just happen. Slowly, but eventually. That (not so) endearing quality is what makes me known in author-land as a "pantser." As you've probably guessed, pantsers prefer to create stories without the benefit of an outline, or, by the seats of their pants. The problem with "pantsing" for me is that the lack of an exact writing plan feeds my tendency toward procrastination.

Only trial by fire has allowed me to keep the spontaneity in my writing that I love while disciplining myself enough to get to the end of a story within a reasonable time period. When I put some of these tips out on twitter ages ago, I got a few requests to post them.

Then someone from an old crit loop asked me to repost them. So, here they are.I hope you find them useful!

Ten Coping Strategies for (Certified) Pansters

Pantser Survival tip #1: If you know it, write the ending first & let characters drive you toward it.

Pantser Plotting tip #2: Write the scene burning bright in your mind. Print, put in a binder @ look often @ progression. Is a plot being born?

Panster plotting tip #3: What's the worst thing that could happen to your character right now? Make it happen. w/ gusto. :)

Pantser plotting tip #4: Happy characters don't dance for the muse. Throw every form of misery at them & make 'em sweat. On page 1. :)

Pantser plotting tip #5: Stuck? Double break, pick an obstacle: organic, inorganic, elemental, suprnatural or internal. Proceed w/ story.

Pantser plotting tip #6: (Thanks to author friend, Tracy Madison)Start w/ your hook, 2 plot turning points, ending. Split the story's action b/t 20 2K chapters for an 80K book. So, up to 20K sets up beginning, 20K marks first turning point, 40K turning second point, 60K final turning point/complication and on to resolution near 80K

Pantser plotting tip #7: No plot? No problemo! Just ask, what does your character want right now? Time to throw up a roadblock.

Panters Plotting tip #8: Let go and let Muse. Write a fast and dirty draft. It will all shake out in the revision. (Love this method, but involves mucho rewriting. Not good for looming deadlines!)

Pantser plotting tip #9: Read your latest work before going to sleep. Ask your subconsious work on it as you sleep. Strangely effective.

Pantser plotting tip #10. Open a new email. Summarize your story like you'r emailing a friend about great movie you saw. At the point of your story's block, write, "and then ___" (Fill in blank.)___ You can play w/ multiple scanarios here if you like.

And finally, the one Pantser plotting tip I rely on most often: Prayer. :) If this fails, move on to another story for a week. Then come back. New perspective can work miracles on even the most stubborn story.


Jennifer L Hart said...

I feel your pain on this, I really do. I've started multiple stories that just sizzled only to have them go all purposeless and limp. Stuff was happening but I had no idea who or what was driving that crazy thing.

I need some weird combination of plotting the actual plot, but letting the characters do there own thing in the framework of that plot. Writing the synopsis first helps.
Except when I throw the synopsis out, of course. ;-)

Saranna DeWylde said...

Ha! Jen, even though we write different stories our processes are similar. But that doesn't surprise me. :)

Christine S. Morehouse said...

Loved this article, Liane! =)

It was just what I needed. I shout it loud and proud...I am a panster. Phew...that felt good to get off my chest. After reading the article I decided I would try to of your tips...right the ending and/or the scene burning inside your brain. Well, as luck would have it the scene that was burning my brain...I mean burning inside desperate to come out was the ending. I have to give you credit for setting me on the straight and crooked road because as I began to write somewhere along the way the characters took over. I wasn't trying to figure out what happened next. I let-as you amazing authors have told me over the years- my characters lead me. Not once did I feel I was doing the leading. I actually felt as if the characters took ove my brain and fingers and wrote the scene itself. I have to give props to you Liane for my daily word count of 1662. I have never wrote that much of a story. Reviews and articles seemed to be easier for me. But, after heading your advice I think I will have this story's first draft completed or almost completed by the end of March.


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