March 28, 2010 by Renee
Okay, so while I didn’t get a lot of comments, (a fact I’ll put down to shyness) we have a lot of writers who try to do a little of both. And we have some bloggers who are total Pantsers. Interesting. I write my blogs with a bit of an outline because I tend to ramble, although I’m sure you haven’t noticed.
Paul was kind enough to expand on his outlining process, which is one of many. So for those of you who are Pantsers simply because you’re not sure how to outline, I’ve found a few handy tools and techniques used by what I like to call the “OCD Plotters”. Just call them Nutters for short.
One technique I’ve heard raves about (but don’t use myself as I find it too restrictive) is the Snowflake Method. I’m sorry all you Flake devotees, but I’m with the pantsers on this one. Holy, long time just to start writing. Just reading it gave me hives. I did try it though, and this method does have some good points. It encourages the writer to know their characters and their plot. This, I believe, is a very important starting point. To write without that knowledge means risking flat characters and plot holes the size of, well, pot holes. I think for writers struggling with horrible first drafts or plots that go nowhere, this is an excellent resource to help you ask yourself the right questions in order to get back on track. I have used parts of this method, though not in order and definitely not on the same timeline that the author suggests.
Oh, and remember the dialogue post where I asked for a Dialogue for Dummies book? Well scroll down the page on the Snowflake site and you’ll find the book I’ve long searched for but never thought I’d find; Fiction Writing for Dummies. Seriously? Anyone who thinks such a book would make them a ‘writer’ deserves the title of Dummy. Just saying. Ouch! No projectiles on The Edge, thanks.
Let’s forget my personal opinions, as you already have, and get back to plotting. I’ve known many Plotters who use Character outlines. Of course these vary, from rough to extremely detailed. For instance, some authors interview their characters. Really. They have a detailed Q & A between themselves and their ‘character’. Imagine sitting down with your handy-dandy notebook (crayon optional) and asking yourself questions, then answering them ‘in character’. Some swear by this method. I’ve tried it and again, it’s not a favourite. I feel as though I should take some meds when I’m finished. But, for writers who have trouble creating characters, I see how this might be a useful tool. As long as no one is around to see you doing this; you don’t want to look like a tool as well.
Others use outlines like this one. To me, once again, a tad on the crazy anal side. I’ll admit to using some of it. I like to make notes in a spreadsheet for my characters. But all I include is name, age, connections to other characters, and possibly some points I want to remember later. If I make them a lefty in chapter two, I might want to remember that in chapter twenty when they shoot the messenger. Hey, mind like a sieve here; I’ve said this many times.
So how do I plot my stories? I’m so glad you asked. Thanks for caring.
I make an outline, very rough, that reads like a crazy synopsis. That’s first, just to get the idea out on paper and figure out where to go with it. Then I break that outline down into chapters. Characters and such emerge at this point. I add them to my little spreadsheet as they appear and make my notes. After that, I read it through to make sure it actually makes sense and modify if I need to. Sometimes I send the outline to cool writer friends who don’t mind boring themselves to tears reading it over for me. They offer suggestions, comments, offers of marriage, etc. and I change it again, politely ignoring the proposals. Once all of that is done, I write. Rarely do I write out of order. I like the linear method; beginning, middle, and end. If I write a scene out of order, and I have done this, I get antsy. My chest hurts and my head spins and all I can think about is writing the chapters to get to that damn scene so nothing is out of order anymore. I know, and I have the audacity to call other people weird.
After doing my research, (with Mr. Google) I’ve discovered there are too many plotting tools and techniques to list here. I’ve been trying to keep these babies short and to the point. I think I may have failed again. Sorry. I won’t list them all. But I will ask two questions in order to write the last post.
Plotters: Any methods you’d like to add? Tips? We’re all ears….er, eyes. Whatever.
Pantsers: What do these methods mean to you? Were they helpful or did you run away when the Snowflake fell? And since I heard little from the Pantsers out there the first time round (except you, Charles, thank you.) I’d like to hear how you write. Are we mistaken in thinking you ‘just do it’? Please, expound (fancy word for explain, you like?) the benefits of pantsing for us.
I look forward to hearing from y’all again.