Friday, June 13, 2008

Plotting by the Seat of My Pants

Pantser…Plotter, hmmm?

I’ve only tried to write by the seat of my pants twice. My first book was built off a short story called DOUBLE ENTENDRE. It fizzled out midway, mostly because I got a FT job. (My first after college). My second attempt, which was pounded out during lunch hours at that FT job and after work til 1 am, was TAKE ME IN YOUR HEART. Which ended up being the book I contracted with Trisk called TIES OF VALOR. (We all know how that turned out.)

From that point on I decided I didn’t want to be in total limbo and that I didn’t want to wring my hands over what might happen. So I started to learn about the W plot. Now every time I start a book I brainstorm a few plot points, then plug in what I have. That way I know if I have enough of what I need, especially conflict! Of course all romance should not only have an action W but also a romance W.

Then came the fateful day when I went to my first RWA Chapter meeting in Raleigh, where I was introduced to Deb Dixon’s GMC concept. I left with my head about to explode. (But I had found writing friends, yeah!) I can’t say that I ever fill out Deb’s charts, because it stresses me out! However I am mindful of the pieces and how they connect. That day I also learned about the Hero’s Journey. As soon as I saw the outline, I knew that’s how I wrote. TAKE ME IN YOUR HEART came out just like Deb’s handout blueprint, which of course had me stoked!

I can’t say I’m a freak about plotting, because I still love to be surprised. I put down the main points that need to happen, then fill in the rest as I go along. And I usually do a chapter outline as a cheat sheet, but it occasionally changes (just like those dreaded synopses!)

I also used the color coding technique for characters when I did TIES OF VALOR’s massive revisions. As it turned out Awyn became yellow. I have no idea why, other than it showed up well on page preview. Zara was lime green. (I know, I know. I should’ve switched them.) I used this technique because when I wrote TIES OF VALOR, the entire book was in Zara’s POV. Back then, that was the “hot” thing. But today, writers usually have to show the male POV. So I had to try to bring those halves into tune. I did pretty well, I’d say.

Since that time, I’ve also learned about using grids with sticky notes to plot. Though it will take up a bit of room (especially posted on a wall) I think it might be worth it. I’ve also heard one writer say she used a desk calendar for her grid because it has the correct number of blocks for a single title. Lord knows I have enough stickies lying around to color everything including the appearances of pooches and kitties that make an entrance.

After this tally I guess I fall into the plotter fold. Does that make me a stick in the mud?


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1 comment:

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Skylar, hope this comment doesn't get eaten.
You're not a stick in the mud. Whatever works for an author and her story, that's all that matters!