Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Best of Both Worlds

Are you a pantser or plotter?

I get asked this question a lot and I normally say I am pantser because it is easier than explaining what I actually do.

I don’t often blog about writing because I know a lot of you know don’t care about the mechanics behind the story, but I also know some of you are interested in writing. So while I was procrastinating working on my final round with Dark Passing before it goes to the editor, I thought maybe, just maybe someone would find my method helpful.  So if you don’t mind, I am going to share.

(Even if you do mind, it’s too late, I’ve already done it.)

My first draft of any book is almost completely pantser material (FYI a pantser isn’t a person who pulls down someone else’s pants. If you thought that, this might not be the post for you. A pantser is a writer who lets the characters dictate the action). All of my novels are originally written like this. I do not plot, but I do think ahead to a certain degree while I am writing; however, the story doesn’t necessarily go in the direction I anticipate it will and I follow it wherever it takes me. So many of my plans come to nothing.

However, come the revision rounds I turn into a hardcore plotter. I have a notebook in which I breakdown each chapter into: world count, characters in chapter, plot advancement (used for main plot and sub plots), and the hook to carry the reader to the next chapter. Once I go through the whole book in this manner it is easier to pinpoint where my story is weak or has holes or if I accidentally dropped a character. Then I make a three act chart to make sure my story has good flow.

For those of you who are scratching your head and about to open a new screen to google three act structure, let me save the time and explain what it is. This is the method of setting up a story that has been used pretty much since books have been written. In Act One you establish your characters, relationships, world, and an incident that pulls the main character (mc) into the action and leads to the inciting incident (aka why your character chooses to go down the path your story has set in front of him/her). Act Two is the longest act where the characters are developed and the action rises. And Act Three is the climax of the book and the resolution of the plots and subplots which hopefully ends with the characters achieving a new sense of who they are.

Mapping the structure of your books helps to find which of the plot points the story are weak and where your characters need growth.

After I complete all of this and fill out or rearrange my story as necessary, I give it one more read through then off to the editor it goes with the smooth realistic character reactions of a pantser, but the structure and completeness of a plotter. Hopefully. 


LisaRayns said...

Great post, Liz. Thanks for sharing.

Shell Patton said...

Love this post Liz. Thank you for sharing your process.

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