Sunday, February 27, 2011

Struggling to Be a Plotter

I'm still struggling to plot my next novel.  I'm not sure what the problem is, but I have an idea.

I've never plotted before, not like this.  I pantsed my way through my first novel, and while I had a blast doing it and learned a lot, the story suffered from the lack of a blueprint.

I know how to plan.  I plan all the time at work, at home, in the car, out for a walk, mowing the lawn -- you name it.  What's got me blocked with plotting out this novel is fear, and the way I deal with that fear is through creative scheduling.

I fear two things:  that I'll plot everything out and then my story will leave my intended path, or that on the other hand I'll be unable to make my characters come alive because I'm writing inside the bounds of my plot-box.

The creative scheduling technique I use has effectively kept those fears at bay.  What I do is promise myself every day that I will work on my plotting, and then find other things that have to be done before the writing.  Or other things that can be done before the writing.  Or I just let myself get distracted.  I know that some people would call this procrastination, but that's such a nasty-sounding word.  I like the term creative scheduling better.

What to do?

I know I want to get back into the writing phase.  The plotting is wearying and scary to me, but the writing and revision is fun.  The only way I'm going to get to the writing is to get through the plotting process (or just abandon that process and pants my way again through this next novel, but I'm not going to do that).

And the silly thing is that the plotting process should really only take another week or so -- two weeks max.  (I tend to be optimistic in my scheduling, so maybe it will be twice that, but still that's not very long.)  It isn't getting done by itself.  What I need to do is make my creative scheduling work for rather than against me.

That's why tonight, instead of sending that email I've needed to send all week, and instead of making my Amazon order, and even instead of writing this blog, I worked on my plotting.  First.  Then I did those other things that needed to get done.

The writing has to come back to first place in my priorities for my evenings, the way it used to be.  The other things still have to get done (well, most of them, anyway), but I need the energy and time to write, so now the writing will happen directly after dinner instead of at some indefinite time slipping into "later".

I feel some progress coming on!


  1. Ever consider reversing the idea? Write then plot? That's what I end up doing a lot. Sit down, and write away. Do the part you enjoy the most. Then, after a few chapters or a certain page number or 14 days or writing or you run out of writing momentum or some other arbitrary condition, stop writing.

    You had to start with some sort of premise: Two women are breaking into a warehouse. Now, two weeks later, you've written them into breaking out of prison. Take this, now that you know the characters better, and try to plot the rest of the story. Doesn't have to be much, maybe just set a goal for them: They want to steal a nuclear warhead to give to a poor country to even the arms race. Now oyu've got the pitch for your story: Two women are caught trying to steal a warhead to even the arms race, but they break out of jail and complete their original objective.

    That's more how I go about making a story. Something for you to maybe think about trying.

  2. Interesting. I could see how that would work. This time through, however, I'm trying the plotting thing from start to finish. That's the plan, as they say.

    I really identify with your "now that you know the characters better..." part.

    [And so far so good -- I'm back to writing (or plotting, for now) every night.]