Blog Archives

Are You a Panster or a Plotter? Weigh in.

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Battles rage about this issue. When writing – especially something large or complex – are you one who flies by the seat of your pants (Panster)? Or do you carefully outline the story from beginning to end (Plotter)?

Take a moment to answer the poll. It will be interesting to see which one comes out ahead…

Myself? Well, I’d say I’m a Semi-Plotter.

It all started in grade school when my teacher, Mrs. Harding, made us outline our book-reports. You know I, II, III followed by A,B,C and then 1.2.3 yadda, yadda, yadda. Sometimes it got so convoluted that I’d forget where I was in the scheme of things. I’d draw arrows from III.C.4 to I.B.2 and then erase like crazy. By the time I was done, there would be holes in the paper and tears on my cheeks.

But over time, I realized that this kind of planning was good for me. To an extent. It helped organize my thoughts, figure out where I was headed and finally bring it all together in a neatly wrapped package. Years ago, when I wrote for a local paper, I would often jot down a rough outline to get a good feel for the flow of the story. Then I would fill in the missing pieces of information. Often, I would find myself surprised when my story simply concluded on its own as if by magic.

So I’ve taken this non-fiction type of outline and plan to apply it to my next work of fiction. But in a much more organic way.

I have the story in scenes written out randomly on my laptop. Yesterday I cut up a brown-paper bag like you would if you were going to use it as a book-cover.  Next, I raided my daughter’s art cubby and scavenged a nice assortment of colored markers. I plan to sketch out a timeline of the scenes on the brown paper and use it as an “outline.”

So for those of you content to simply let the pen fly willy-nilly, I bow in respect.

But you won’t have a pretty piece of brown paper with rainbow- colored jottings to hang up on your wall now will you?

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Packing for the Trip

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Getting ready to begin a novel is a lot like packing for a trip. There’s a lot of planning. An itinerary. Consideration of transport. Not to mention who’s coming along. It’s like when your finger hesitantly hovers over the enter button before you press it and commit to purchasing airline tickets. Did I get the dates right? Is this really the best deal I can get? Is this the right decision?

Committing those first words on paper (or screen) is a scary step. Either you are the craziest person on earth or you think waaaaay too much of yourself.  At least sometimes that’s how we feel. It’s that little twinge of doubt that keeps us from typing that first sentence.

But sometimes we don’t start for a whole different reason. We simply aren’t ready. That’s where I am. I mean I have the story all here in  my head – the plot, characters, story arc. It’s all there. But for it to be good (and I mean really good) I need to do my homework. Get it right.

That’s why I have decided not to start. Writing that is…

I’ve completed a novel already. It’s not the greatest. It’s not the worst. Do I think it’s good enough for publication? Maybe. But it’s no break out novel. It’s one to be tucked into my sock drawer and whipped out sometime in the future when my agent asks, “You got anything else?”

So for now I’m just packing my suitcase. I’m filling it with knowledge. Places, dates, fads, fashions, culture,  religion. I’m taking that all-important first step in doing a period/historical story justice – RESEARCH. It’s going to take some time and effort but hey, that’s what we gotta do if we we’re gonna do it right.

So every now and then I’m planning on conducting a Baggage Check. Just to let you know how my progress is going. I also plan on providing some helpful information for fellow travelers.

So follow me if you are interested and I will do the same!

Bon Voyage!

 

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