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ROW80-2 04/04 - Kickoff

Plotter or Pantser?

For my non-writing readers, plotters start off their writing with not just a story idea, but a plot, characters, character arcs, structured flow, high and low points, scene outlines, maps, etc. etc. Pantsers often have just a story idea, and then just write whatever comes out, navigating by the seat of their pants.

Plotters have the advantage of knowing where their story is going, but too much structure may constrain their creativity. Or result in major rework to adjust all that structure to a new direction. Pantsers can just be creative and write, but at some point they will have to rearrange and edit to fit everything into some sort of structure. And maybe throw a lot of their wok away. Because, while readers love great dialogue and action scenes and description, they also want to see things like plot and character issues.  As do agents and publisher and editors.

I've tried both. My first novel, Kirks' Landing, was done before I knew much about writing. I had an idea for a story, and some characters, and some exciting scenes, so just started writing. I had a novel at the end of it all, but not a good one. Luckily I didn't know about the ease of self-publishing, so wasn't tempted to rush into print. The feedback from a publisher/editor was that I needed a major rewrite, so I learned about plotting and characters and all that stuff and tackled my draft novel. It was a long battle to rearrange and add/delete all those words, but I did end up with a better novel. Since then I've kept learning and practicing, and have developed a process for my novels. I'm more of a plotter, but leave room for flexibility. 

I start with a story idea, and a character, and add a hook at the start and a twist at the end. I outline using a three act structure, with various turning points and rising and falling action.  Mary Moore has a good template for this, here. I used to then use an Index card program on my iPad to work on my novel in coffee shops, cafes, parks, etc. I figure out what the Inciting Incident was, as well as the five Turning Points, and fill in an outline of some of the scenes in between, rearranging as needed. At some point I would then export that structure to Scrivener  on my PC, settle down in my office, and start adding in more to the cards, and then actual scenes. Scrivener still let me rearrange scenes and ideas, but it was a cumbersome transition form iPad to home PC. Now I have a nice new lightweight laptop, which runs Scrivener, so my next novel I will use Scrivener's index cards straight away, and do all my writing and editing there. 

For pantsers looking for some structure, or plotters looking for other options, Kate Nolan posted links to a number of helpful templates and articles on this. The post is several year old, but the info still helpful. 

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