In writing fiction, writers typically divide themselves into two camps: Plotters and pansters. Personally, I’ve always found it interesting to learn how other writers plot (or don’t plot) and put their stories together.
Here is a quick definition of the two ‘camps.’
Plotters need structure when they write. They usually use outlines or charts, chapter by chapter summaries, or at a minimum an understanding of the beginning, middle, and end before they start to write.
Panters might begin with just a single scene that intrigues them. They need to have a freedom in their writing which might mean not knowing the ending, or simply writing as they go.
Figuring out how YOU best write is key as you jump into a new project. For myself, I’ve come to realize that I am a flexible plotter. I use an outline because my plots are usually pretty complicated, but that doesn’t mean I know everything up front. There are always a lot of surprises along the way.
What do you do, though, when you don't have enough plot, or you just can't figure out which way the story needs to go? The book I’m currently writing has been particularly challenging. The majority of the story takes place over one day, which means that the timeline is very, very tight. I ended up using a couple methods to organize my plot that really made a difference.
|Excel Spread Sheet|
First, I used an Excel spreadsheet so I could see my chapters and how they all fit together. This is actually something I always do, but for this story, it was essential. Within the worksheet, I laid out chapter numbers, timeline, a short definition of the chapter, a running word count, POV, and any extra notes I might need.
One, watch movies similar to your genre, and spend time dissecting the plot. For my current story, I watched Flightplan and took notes on every twist in the plot, then stood back and worked through how I could add my own subplots and twists and turns to my story.
Another great place to learn about the behind the scenes of writing, is the bonus information on DVDs by the writers. I love listening to writers of TV shows talk about their writing process, characterization, and why they kept or cut certain scenes. They always get me excited about writing again.
Your turn: Whether you're a plotter or a panster, what methods to you use to put your plot together and get those creative juices flowing?