Thursday, April 10, 2008

To Plot or Not?

I confess, I'm a SOTP'er. For those not familiar with this term, it means Seat of The Pants Writer. Which means that I don't generally plot anything before I sit down to write.
Is this a good thing? I'm so glad you asked. Um... I'm not sure.
If you receive the ACFW loop emails, you'll know there has been much, much discussion on the subject. Those who plot just don't understand why the rest of us don't.
In my humble opinion, I think it comes down to doing what works for you.
When I get an idea for a story, I'll jot down a few things on paper, names, locations etc... But my yen is to just write a few chapters to get a feel for the mood, setting of the story, and who my characters are. Then I can sit back and take stock of what I've got so far to see if it feels right. What usually ends up happening is that those first few chapters get scrapped. But it gets the story out of my head and into the computer which is where it needs to be. I breathe a lot easier if I know I have at least five chapters under my belt, even if they're not great chapters. Something is better than nothing.

So what's wrong with plotting? Absolutely nothing. I really admire those folks who get their ideas and immediately
set out to draw timelines, bar graphs and elaborate storyboards before they've written word one. When they do start writing,
they know exactly where they're going and why. I'm sure their story may change a few times along the way, but they have a plan.
I prefer to wander aimlessly through the forest until I find the right path to walk down.
I have tried to plot. I've read books, tried the snowflake method, spent a couple hundred bucks on Dramatica Pro - I just can't seem to get the hang of the whole plotting thing.
With my last book, I did end up having to do a lot of re-writing because of course, the plot that wasn't plotted didn't work.
But I didn't mind the extra time and effort. After all, when you're learning something, no time is wasted time.
Now I kind of tend to plot as I go. I'll write things down, but I really won't know for sure how the whole thing is going to turn out until I get to the end. I like it that way. For instance, I struggled with naming a particular character. I finally came up with something but I'm still not sure it works. Until I've written him, I won't know him.
We're all wired differently and that's a good thing! The world would be really boring if we weren't and God wouldn't have nearly as much work to do. I can't really explain how my writing process works, but it does. Once I start a book, it comes alive in my head. I'll get scenes playing out in my mind, then I'll write them down. They either work or they don't.
However, a caution. If you're thinking this freestyle method of writing sounds like a blast, please don't misunderstand me. There are rules and we must follow them. Yes, I know, we don't like rules.
But if you are an unpublished writer and you really do hope to change that status one day, find out what the rules are and obey them.
First and foremost, your story must make sense! You must be able to create characters that will draw a reader in and want to become a part of their lives. Your characters must have certain goals they need to achieve, and they must be believable.
Study the genre you want to write in and know your craft. Get a handle on POV. Don't head hop. Don't write in first person...
Oops, did I say that out loud? Okay, you can write in first if you must. It's not my preference. But that's okay. As I said, we're all different!
If you're not a member of American Christian Fiction Writers or another writing organization, sign up today! The cost is minimal compared to the wealth of knowledge and encouragement you will receive.
Join a critique group. Grow a thick skin.
Believe in yourself.
So many things go into becoming a writer that I could sit here for hours just telling you about them.
But I won't. Not today anyway.
It's your turn. Tell me about your writing methods. What works for you and what doesn't?

1 comment:

Molly Noble Bull said...

I really liked your article, but for those who have read my articles on writing, I am a plotter.
Funny, the most fun I ever had was writing a novel from the seat of my pants. I never knew what was going to happen next. Trouble is, it never sold.
Go figure.
But I am happy for seat or the pantsers like our Catherine. They write great books.