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Thursday, August 5, 2010

To Plot Or Not To Plot

I'm one of those people who loathe wasting time. Even full time writers need to clean house and grocery shop, keep their doctor appointments. So I plan out most of my day but I try and make sure that I have some wiggle room in case something takes more time than I've planned for. I'm careful, but I'm not stuck in one mind-set.

Which is probably why I consider myself a Plotster. I love that euphoric rush when a story idea hits and I'm off and running. I'll have a general idea of where I'm going but it's that old seat of the pants, wing-walking energy that happens at the beginning of each project.

It lasts for about four chapters (or roughly one-quarter of the book, however long that may be). Which, strangely enough usually coincides with the need for the first turning point, you know--when my hero/heroine have to make a pivotal decision to get their party started. My panster party is pretty much over.

Not really, because I do enjoy what I do but the decisions that I make about the who, what, why, when, where and how to take the story forward become the real focus. I know who the characters are by now and have set up the way they will behave and evolve over the course of book.

I then plot in a straight line, from beginning to end but I may write a scene at the beginning that I know I'll need at the end. I simply keep a file of them and copy and paste as needed. My crit partner, Holly, a die-hard panster says this would drive her crazy.

We all have different methods and I don't think there are any wrong ways of creating a story but I'm always interested in any discussion about the process. So authors, how about it--do you have a tried and true method that you swear by or is each book different?

And readers, just so you know that I haven't forgotten you, what makes you love a book? Is it the characters, the plot, the setting you can get lost in?

I ask because someone leaving a comment today will be receiving a download of my latest release, HEAD OVER HEELS:-)



Katalina Leon said...

I cannot plot in a straight line or write a scene ahead of time and I wish I could! I'm continually ambushed by my characters.
While I'm writing, subtle things are said or done between the characters that completely surprise me and affect the next scene. On a good day I'm in real time with my characters and I often don't know what's going to happen until they do.
It's sometimes a frustrating way to write but I've learned to deal with it.

Judy said...

I first want the plot to be interesting to me and I think the setting is also very important. I sometimes, when I am reading, can picture where the author has the story taking place. I love a book that takes me where the characters are!! The characters are not always the main item to me, but I do have alot of books that I read that I look for certain main characters that are associated with the stories!!

I really enjoyed your post!!


JoanneR said...

I am personally attracted to awesome use of language that drags you into a story. The characters are important, but the use of language is one of the biggest appeals for me as a reader.

Paris said...


You have your own unique way of writing and if it works for you be happy! BTW, I'm really enjoying Owned by Rome:-)

Paris said...

Hi, and I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for commenting:-)

Paris said...


Very interesting point! A story that hooks me from the beginning because of just that reason is one I'm sure that I'll enjoy!

jean hart stewart said...

Interesting and similar to the way I write. I usually have the first few chapters and the last firmly in mind and get them down in a hurry. Then I seat out the rest of the plot.The soggy middle is the hardest for me, but I often wake up at 2 in the morning with a solution. Crazy way to write, but it seems the only way I can do it. My subconcsious had a lot to do with figuring out the entire plot. Jean

Molly Daniels said...

Sometimes I can sketch out a vague time line of events and work around that. But sometimes the characters just start talking and the book practically writes itself:)

Paris said...


I knew I couldn't be the only one:-)That soggy middle will get me every time!

Paris said...

Lucky Molly:-) I've only had one book that seemed as though I channeled because the characters kept telling me what happened next! It was a western historical and one of my favorites but sadly remains unpublished. Maybe, I'll dust it off:-)

heidi330 said...

I start out with my plots, at least three to start, and my characters figured out. But once I start writng and about the fourth or fifth chapter, the characters start pulling me in different directions and I found three or four different plot ideas and most I even like better. So after all that i just follow alongso when something comes up thats when i find out about it. I would love to be more organize but I'm afraid if i was then all the good or great ideas would never surface.
Great post,
please add me for the contest...

Paris said...

Thanks for participating Heidi! I'll add you to the list:-)

Amber Skyze said...

Plotting in a straight line isn't for me. I can't write ahead either. I'm totally a pantser. An idea strikes and I run with it. The hero or heroine normally dictates where the story will go. I can sometimes see the ending, but usually not until I've written half the book.
Sometimes I wish I could plot, but then my stories might not have the same outcome - so I stick to pantsing. :)

Paris said...


Thanks for your input! I wish I could do the entire book by the seat of my pants. I envy those who can!

Andrea I said...

It could be any of the ones listed by you that would get me lost in a book.

Sandy said...


I'm a little like you. I do a bit of panster and a bit of plotting. Wink!

Paris said...

Thanks for commenting!

Paris said...

Thanks again for stopping by and taking the time to comment and talk about the writing process!

Joanne R is the winner of the Head Over Heels download! Please contact me and let me know your email addy!

Gabby said...

Whenever I'm reading something in most cases I get really attached the characters first, and I mean really attached!

For example if something bad happens I tend to get a little upset, but I also tend to get annoyed with them if they do something stupid. So for me personally it's the characters that get me wrapped up in the story.

There also has to be an awesome story line! I want to grab me right away so that I have a hard time putting it down!


It is the plot for me. the plot make the story.


Paris said...

Sandy, great minds think alike LOL!

Gabby, I know what you mean, if the characters don't appeal to me I can't seem to get interested in the book.

Loretta, thanks for stopping by and a unique plot will definitely interest me.

Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Paris. I'm a I've stated in innumerable posts and interviews, my outlines are often longer than my books. I copy and paste photos from the internet for what I want my characters to look like, I search real estate blogs for their homes...I know every single thing about them before I start writing.

It's a lot of work, but by the time I begin the novel, it's pretty much smooth sailing cuz I know everything there is to know about them. At that point, I'm just taking dictation as they play in my mind. :)

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