So apparently now I’m a PLOTTER?!? (And 5 reasons I’m okay with that)

Fellow friends, writers, bloggers, readers.  I regret to announce that this is the death of Ever-The-Pantser-Beth.  I am no longer a person who writes with no abandon and no outline.

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Just… take a look at this screenshot below.  You know what this is?  It’s an… an… *whispers* an outline for my WIP.  *GASP*

plotting take 2

So, yeah.  I’m now a plotter.  Well, sorta.  Here’s the thing about re-writes: it’s kinda important to have some idea where your story is going by the time you’re in the 2nd draft of a novel.  So, with this 2nd draft, I’m finally keeping an outline-type thing.  And I really like this format.  It’s just a Google doc.  (For the record, the document’s official title is “Dragon Story Brain Dump.”  Because I refuse to officially have an “outline” for my novel lol.)  Here’s some reasons why I’ve really been enjoying this method of “outlining.”

1. It’s so flexible.

And as I go through the story, I can add notes and questions and details.  Nothing is set in stone, because the outline is literally just bullet points and sub-points.  In the past, I’ve tried out Scrivener and other similar plotting software, and I found they were too much for me.  It took too long to organize my notes, so I felt like I lost time when I was trying to use them to plot my story.  (To be clear, lots of writers adore Scrivener and other programs.  But they’re not for everyone.)  A simple Google doc is easy to edit and re-arrange, and I can see my whole plot at once.  I can add in as much detail as I want to, and it doesn’t bog down the flow of the outline.

2. It’s not intimidating.

My lil Google doc with its silly name is inviting, simple, and streamlined.  It doesn’t feel like an official outline, so it doesn’t feel like it has to be perfect.  I can use abbreviations and question marks, and no one cares.  It’s fun to use, and it’s fun to see my plot coming together as I work through this draft of my WIP.

3. It’s not distracting.

Some of the nifty plotting softwares I’ve used, such as Scriviner and Scrapple, simply have too many features.  I get distracted by changing font colors and dotted lines and labeling everything correctly and it’s just too much.  My Google doc doesn’t have any bells and whistles.  It’s just a word-doc.  It serves its purpose perfectly, and I don’t get distracted by any extra features.  I have more time for writing and actually getting stuff done.

4. I can access it whenever.

Since it’s a Google doc, I can access it from anywhere I have internet.  I can also access it from my phone any time, so no matter where I am, I can grab my phone and jot down some ideas.  I love having my plot in my pocket everywhere I go.

5. Everything is in one place.

Along with a plot outline, this document is also the place where I’ve been keeping notes on my novel’s world, magic system, and magical creatures.  I also have sections for characters, potion recipes, and places that characters visit.  It’s just so nice to have EVERYTHING IN ONE PLACE.  It helps me avoid continuity errors, and it helps me easily find information.  (That way I’m not spending ten minutes searching through a chapter to find that one obscure spell that I forgot.)

ALRIGHTY, FOLKS.  I’m off to go write, with my nifty outline Google document to assist me.

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Re-Writes & Happiness

writing in class
This is my notebook for my math class.  Only there’s about twice as much novel-writing as math notes in it, because I write in class a lot.

I’m once again finding myself in the vast green land of Re-Writes.  To be honest, I think this might be my favorite part of novel-creation.  The rough draft is hard because I’m not sure where the story is supposed to be going, and then later, edits are monotonous and they just take forever.

But in between those two, there are Re-Writes.  For me, this is the sweet spot of writing.  It’s the mysterious Wood Between the Worlds, where the real story starts to take place.

Right now I’m working on a fun, snarky, YA urban-fantasy novel that I originally wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2015.  After a year and a half of very little love, it’s finally getting the attention it deserves.  Because here’s the thing: in NaNo, I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted the plot to be.  I knew very little going into that November, and just hard-core ‘Pantsed’ my way through the month (in other words, behaved like a Pantser, or one who flies by the seat of their pants when writing as opposed to outlining first).  So then on December 1st, I was left with 50,002 words of cool characters, a great voice, a fantastic world, and very rambling plot.  So now I’m taking all those things and adding characters, tension, and a real plot.  In other words, I’m doing re-writes.

And it’s amazing.  I’ve already written the rough draft, so I’m that much closer to having a complete, ready-to-share-with-the-world story.  (Or at least share with my mom.)  The fact that the rough draft is already done gives me strength and hope.

done the impossible, that makes us mighty

But also, I’m still in the writing phase (I’m creating like 10 new chapters out of nowhere), which is the best because WRITING IS FUN.  And since I’ve written the end of the story (or a version of the end), I know where this needs to go.  I know (sortof) what needs to happen.  I have the bare-bones story, and I can then add in a plot: complete with conflict, stakes, and motivation.

So, yeah.  Remember this quote?

first draft

I love this quote.  I live by this quote.

For this novel, I’ve written the rough draft.  I’ve hauled in the sand.

And now, my friends, it’s time to start building castles.

NaNoPrep – Part 2

Okay, so NaNoWriMo is three days away.  If you’re like me, and you’re a hopeless Pantser and Procrastinator, then these-last minute tips are for you.  (I like to tell people I put the Pro in Procrastination.)

1. Stockpile Halloween Candy.

There’s nothing like a Kit-Kat staring you down as you try to write the next 500 words.  My personal favorite for writing is Twizzlers.  I’m pretty sure I consumed like 100 Twizzlers in the first week of NaNo last year.  But hey, if that’s what it takes….

2.  Check out the forums.

I especially recommend this forum, which is for word sprints, challenges, and word-wars.  Pretty sure that word-wars are the greatest things in the universe.  My competitive nature takes over and forces me to write faster than humanly possible.  Word sprints are also great.  (Why do you write like you’re running out of time?  CAUSE I LITERALLY AM.)

But there are forums for basically everything nano-related.  Adopt-a-character, help with outlining, advice on life with NaNo… it’s a glorious black hole of information.

3.  If you can, find people in your area.

Join your region forum, and then see if anyone’s organizing write-ins near you.  I went to a bunch of write-ins last year, and they were amazing.  Like so darn cool.  And if no one’s organized a write-in in your area already, organize one yourself!  Otherwise, at least see if you can drag a creative friend to Starbucks for a few hours.  Their job is to make sure you write the whole time you’re there.

4.  Do SOME Planning.

I’m pretty much a Panster, but I do wholeheartedly suggest that you do some sort of planning.  Not necessarily plotting, but planning.  Maybe you want to figure out your main character’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.  Maybe draw what your characters look like with colored pencils. Or plan your opening scene.  Or maybe plan how you want your story to end.  Or stockpile names for characters, explore your magic system, or come up with your villain’s catchphrase.  Do something.  Get your creative juices flowing.

Here’s a good blog post if you need help with basic plotting: 5 Secret Steps to Story Building.

If you’re looking for an epic overview of different ways to outline, try this insane blog post: How to Outline… (warning: language in that post.  But worth it ’cause it’s awesome.)

5.  Stock up on Sleep.  Sleep while you can.  Get all the Sleep.  Because come November, you’ll need it.

 

Good luck to everyone embarking on NaNoWriMo, whether it’s your first year or tenth!  You are gonna do great!  See you in November.

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If You’re A Pantser…

pantser badge.png If you – like me – are a certified Pantser, then you have to do something very specific during the rough draft process.

What, exactly, do pantsers have to do during the rough draft process?  Glad you asked.

They have to write.

Mind=Blown.

I’ve been sitting around the past couple weeks, not writing.  Because I didn’t know what to write.  I thought I had to have a plot lined up before I started writing.  Because, you know, reasons.

But BETH.  YOU’RE A PANTSER.  YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW.  YOU’RE JUST SUPPOSED TO WRITE.

Aha.  Thank you, voice inside my head.  If you would have told me this a few months ago, that would have been great.

All it took was a day of “playing” inside my head.  My characters met.  They said hello.  They were in a place.  There was conflict and drama.  Now there’s a fragment of a plot happening.  It’s slowly starting to take shape.

So don’t wait around for the perfect plot.  Star writing and it will come.

Okay.

Beth out.

 

To Plot or Not to Plot

To Plot or Not to Plot, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to plan

The twists and turns of the outrageous novel,

Or to take arms against the way of plotting,

And by opposing, pants it?  To write; to live…

Well, perhaps that’s not as good as Shakespeare’s original.  But like Hamlet in this scene, I am plagued by indecision.

My next novel shall soon be upon me.  (*cough* November *cough*)  And I really really want to be able to write it in 30 days.  (Or at least 50,000 words of it.)

But what if I get stuck?

Here’s what I know about my New Book so far:

  • Who the MC is (a magician)
  • What she does for a living (trains magical creatures)
  • Who she lives with (her crazy great-aunt)
  • Who her pets are (a talking unicorn and an immortal owl)
  • What a minor conflict is going to be (she can’t get any business for several months, and she doesn’t know why)
  • An opening scene/ inciting plot point

But that’s IT.  There’s so much more that I DON’T KNOW.  Such as:

  • Who the Bad Guy is (or if there is one!)
  • Why the Bad Guy is keeping my MC from getting clients
  • What’s gonna happen when the MC trains her baby dragons
  • WHAT ON EARTH HAPPENS IN CHAPTER 2
  • Why the MC’s parents are dead/ out of the picture
  • What type of Magical Government exists (think Ministry of Magic from HP)
  • What type of character arc is going to occur (like how does my MC grow up as a result of this story?)
  • Who any of the MC’s friends are (their names, their jobs in this story)
  • What the MC’s favorite color is

And the most embarrassing one?

  • What the MC’s name is

Okay, she had a name at some point, in some opening chapter scene thing, but…  I forgot her name.

So.  My question remains?  Do I plot my story?  Or do I leave it up to chance?  Do I allow myself the joy of exploring a new plot as I write, knowing that it brings with it a higher chance of getting stuck?

dreamer of far-flung dreamsFor now, yes.

Maybe I am and will always be the Pantser, the dreamer of far-flung ideas and the writer of impossible plots.

Or maybe not.

Arg, this is all so new to me!  This is the first time I’m beginning a novel with the intention of making it publishable.  The first time I’ve ever really considered the thought of plotting ahead of time.

It’s a bit scary.

But I refuse to be a plotter.  I detest the thought of outlining my novel, the thought of breaking it up into pieces before I begin bringing it to life, the thought of knowing where it ends before it begins.

So I think that I will compromise, but only a little.  I will allow myself to dream in this world, to introduce myself to the characters, to get to know the story.  But I absolutely forbid myself to see where the plot will take me.

I’ll even write myself a speech to prove it:

Sons of Notebooks, of Keyboards, my brothers!

I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.  A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our Pants and break all bonds of spontaneity.  But it is not this day!  An hour of woes and plotted novels, when the age of Pantsers comes crashing down.  But it is not this day!  This day, we WRITE!

By all that you hold dear, on this good earth, I bid you PANTS, WRITERS of the WEST!

THIS DAY (aragorn)