5/16/2016

The Plotter's Manifesto

Writers are defined by their approach to the task.  On one end of the spectrum, you have the Pantsers (thanks to James Scott Bell for introducing me this distinction), who sit down to a blank page and just go.  Sounds easy, right?  I don't think so, but the reasons why are the subject of another post.

On the other end, you have Plotters, who range from people who write simple, hand-drawn idea webs, to people like me, who spend months devising detailed spreadsheets, building templates, writing mini-scenes to develop characters, and generally making themselves look crazy to any outside observer.

Figuring out whether you are a Pantser or a Plotter--or somewhere in between--is one of the first tasks you should undertake when you start your journey as a writer.

highly recommend becoming a Plotter. You don't have to be as obsessive as me, but plotting saves you great hulking slabs of time, effort, and indecision. 

Wait, plotting saves you time?  How can that be?

Alright, the truth is plotting does put more distance between you and actually writing your story, but it's worth it. When you start from a suitable plan, your first draft will be better, which means you'll delete less, and spend less time reworking pages that fall short.  In the long run, you'll write more, because you won't spend so much damn time wrestling with a slithering mess of a novel.

Even a relatively straightforward novel can be a convoluted, multifaceted, byzantine thing when you're creating it.  When you're in the thick of it, ideas are firing off in your brain at random; you get ideas in the shower, ideas in bed, ideas when you're out to dinner.  Character motivations are gradually refined, plot turns are tested and rejected, locations are changed.  Think about it; would it be easier to do all that shuffling around in a novel, or an outline?

True, even the best plotted novel will go through some unexpected transformations after being written.  That's part of the process.  But the first ideas are seldom the best, and I find it's better to get those worked out in bullet list form.  A professional Pantser might take a book through seven complete drafts before it's ready to see the light of day.  Plotting can potentially cut off two or three of those drafts, and cut down on developmental edits.

If you're ready to begin your journey as a Plotter, check out my series on Story Structure.