Sunday, July 17, 2011

PLOTTING. It's not for the faint of heart.

As I'm in the throes of plotting my next story, I've come to a very, very painful conclusion.

"Plotting" is just a fancy way of saying that imaginary people have hijacked your brain, bound you in a choke hold and beaten you senseless, saying they'll only let you live if you write what they tell you.

So, what do you do? Well, you do what any sane person would do: listen to those imaginary people.

You don't sleep, you can't think straight, you can't even hold a normal conversation (those imaginary people start screaming when anyone else talks to you about anything else. They're slightly narcissistic. Slightly). Your brain is in another dimension for, oh, who knows how long. Will it ever return to Earth?  Shoot, it'll probably return and, with your new-found awareness, you'll realize you look all pasty and bug-eyed and your loved ones will start making Twilight comparisons (this has happened, on more than one occasion). 

And I love it.

Since misery loves company, I have a few questions for you masochistic writers out there...

Do you plot?...And if so, how long do you spend plotting? Where do your stories come they drop on you like an anvil?...Or do you pointedly ponder?

And a picture...
Sedona, AZ
(I think the desert is a lot like writing. It's stunning and unique and full of mystery, but if you spend too much time in it, it'll kill you.)


  1. I do plot, but most of the time it's in my head. I'm normally very organized in other aspects of my life but I've found I tend to be a panster with the writing. I'm working on changing that. Some stories just need more up front organization.

    I love your description of what's going on in our heads. =D

  2. You have a wonderful way with words, I like reading your posts. In answer to your question about plotting. I do plot; I plot how to get out of cleaning the house, doing the yard work, paying the bills......not a good story!

  3. My plots usually unfold from a simple story idea and complex characters that I usually allow to do what they wanna. (=

  4. Plot is very important… I never conscientiously plot a thing, but during composition my mind comes up with a middle and ending. I wish I could plot more, but it never fails to deliver boring contrite writing, so I just let it come to me as I write.

  5. Thanks for the comments! I love knowing what "works" for helps me not feel so overwhelmed.

    Donna - I used to be more of a panster, too! :D After loads and loads of re-writes, I forced myself to switch. Because, as you said, some stories need so much more upfront organization!

    Norma - thank you!...I plot about those things, too :D Let me know how yours ends!

    Jo - Ha!...but at least your characters are complex! Well, on second thought, maybe that's not a good thing :)

    Jeff - I know what you mean! Sometimes I feel if I "plot" it all out, the "magic" is lost. So hard to find that balance...

  6. I am a panster, trying to become a reformed pantser. I am struggling with plotting now. I just don't like it. I mean, I can see the value of it, and I can see that it would actually make things easier than diving in head first and hoping not to hit an obstacle, but I am still struggling!

    And when the characters are screaming in your head, I find it helps to remind them gently that you hold the power of life and death over them, and you're not afraid to use it.

  7. Like Jen & Donna, I don't do much planning. I begin with a very general idea, sometimes just a sentence or a title that I can build something around, and some vague idea for an ending. The rest - most of the time - works itself out.

    But in consequence I tend to be a very slow writer, and novels give me fits because I write myself into a corner.

    I'm really TRYING to become better at plotting pre-work (or become a reformed pantser, as Jen so eloquently put it) but my natural inclination is to weave my way blindly through and work things out as I go. The problem is, I rarely KNOW much about my characters, so writing stories is a bit like slowly drawing the cloth off of a portrait.

  8. Jen - I love it..."reformed panster" :D And I'm definitely going to use your threatening approach! Thanks! lol

    Adam - Isn't that so true? You don't REALLY get to know your characters until you start writing about them! ARG! I like your analogy to drawing the cloth off a portrait, too. That's great!

    Thanks for the comments!

  9. Oh, yes. Definitely a plotter. I'll spend a good two weeks planning, plotting, and note taking before actually starting something, unless the beginning just pops in there and I have to get it down on paper. Restaurant napkins are helpful.

    I gave you a shout-out on my blog. :)

  10. Hahahaha! Love this post ( : So true and so funny!

    Have DEFINITELY had my mind "hijacked" by my characters before. Usually I try to pretend like everything is normal. Sometimes people believe me... but only cause I'm good at multitasking. I can supervise the voices in my head while at the same time telling everyone else "Why yes, thank you, everything IS fine!"

    With a beaming smile too, of course ( :

  11. David - I LOVE NAPKINS! Thanks for sharing. Two weeks seems to be my average, too...thought sometimes a little longer :D Maybe I should take some notes from you? (or napkins, lol). And thanks for the shout-out!

    Julie - What would we DO without the ability to multitask?!? I love how you say you "supervise" those voices. Awesome! :)

  12. I usually plot in my head, though lately I've written bits down to help keep facts straight. Sometimes when I plot I spend hours hammering out details and pondering, while other times I just acknowledge the high points and get to writing. My stories come from a variety of sources: dreams, the abyss, inspiration from music, or dissatisfaction with an existing story which in turn compels me to write something even better.

  13. I can't take my characters anywhere without knowing where I'm going first. I can't say "we'll get there when we get there" with any authority to all those repeated askings of "how much longer is it?" if I don't have a destination in mind.

  14. I'm quite a plotter. Usually I have to know the beginning and end and other important events, before I can start writing. So I'm much like you with the plotting. Having said that, there have been times when a new idea hits me and I just start writing immediately.
    MY ideas come from all over the place. Often they are things I've experienced that have been embellish. Other time, the stories just appear out of no where.
    Great post. I love how you've written it

  15. Oh, so true! And I love plotting, too. Once the idea hits me, I ponder a bit, and then I spend a lot of time working out the details in an outline before I commit to a first draft. But I love the ride--every bit of it.

  16. Julius - (ps I love your name) Thanks for sharing! Isn't it nice when the story just "flows" and you don't have to hammer it out?? :)

    Andrew - I'm exactly the same way. I totally stress out if I dont' have a destination. And, they end up getting themselves into a corner.

    Lana - Thanks for sharing! So nice knowing other people work like I do (or differently :D )I love those stories that appear out of nowhere!

    Cynthia - Hi! And it's SO important we enjoy the "ride" - what a ride it is :D

  17. Yes I plot! I spend what feels like forever pointedly pondering. I like to know SO much before I even start. I ponder how each scene is going to play out before I write it, too.

  18. I do not plot, I can't. It's impossible. If I try, I can't write. Everything just falls into my head and I write. Like someone put a movie reel inside my brain and pressed play.

  19. Usually, I just jump in and write because I'm a pantser like that. Lately, I'm trying to actually plot more, so I have a few things kinda stewing around in my head. There's a lot of obsessive thinking though, and yes, it is a little maddening.

    Love the picture. So beautiful!

  20. Peggy - Gosh, it feels like forever for me, too! Oh, the ponderings...

    Ashley - Wow! I WISH things played in my head like that ;) My movie real is totally disjointed! Thanks for sharing!

    Krispy - Good luck with that plotting, and if you go mad, it's okay. Imaginary friends don't judge, lol. Thanks about the photo, too!

  21. "imaginary people have hijacked your brain" I loved this line. I'm a big believer in doing the first draft fast, and obsessively, so your words deftly described my "process." (Quotes for sarcasm, since my "process" is one novel deep....) Thanks for this post!

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