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.

Happy December!

How did it get to be December 2nd already?

Ah, look at that.  The Hamilton Mixtape is out today!

mixtape.jpg

In other news, another NaNoWriMo is here and gone.  Nope, I didn’t win this year.  Didn’t even come close.  But I’m A-OK with that.  I started a story that needed to be written, and I’m so excited to see where it’s taking me.  I’m back in The Writing Mode, which is the best place to be.  I’m editing and writing and excited to start querying again after the holidays.  (Most literary agencies close up shop in December and January because it’s such a crazy time of year.)

Also, here’s another fun writerly-resource that I stumbled across: it’s called Scapple.  It’s a plotting program made by the same people who made Scrivener.  Basically, it’s a plotting tool where you can outline events or characters and connect them and move them around and add notes about them.  And like Scriviner, it has a 30 day free trial.  (30 days of use, not 30 consecutive days.)  AND I LOVE IT.  I’m too much of an anti-plotter (pantser at heart, you guys) to stick to traditional outlines.  But I’m writing a series now and I really kinda need to know what’s happening when.  So Scapple has been wonderful and freeing. (I’m not getting paid to promote it or anything.  I just think it’s super cool.)  Here’s an example of what it can look like:

Sample Scrapple.png

Here’s the actual plotting I’ve done on it:

actual plotting.jpg

I really like it.  And I really like where this story is going.  It’s like I’m getting deeper and deeper into this world, discovering the heart of this series’ story.  The different story plots are weaving together and I’m madly in love.  Gotta go do some writing.  I have one week of classes left, and then I’ll have free days and late nights for hot cocoa and good books and writing.

Happy December everyone.  Turn on some Christmas music and write some words.  You never know the power your story has to change someone’s life.

My Love-Hate Relationship with my NaNo Novel

Well, folks, I sincerely apologize for the lack of posts lately.  But the truth is, since NaNoWriMo ended, I’ve needed a break from anything writing-related.

But today I’d like to talk a bit about my feelings for this NaNoWriMo novel that I’ve spent the last week completely ignoring.

The first thing that comes to mind is burning hatred.  It is awful.  The plot makes no sense, and there are more plot holes than I can count.  The characters are flat, the dragons don’t get developed nearly at all, the first three chapters are in past tense instead of present, and just the whole thing is hugely awful.

Today, however, I made the decision to open up my MS and read some of what I wrote during November.  Just to see if it’s really as bad as I thought it was.

And guess what?  Some of it was.

But a lot of it wasn’t.

Okay.  So NaNoWriMo didn’t deliver a perfectly-plotted novel into my lap.  It didn’t drop life-like characters from the sky.  But it did do a lot for me.

It allowed me to write a rough – very rough – draft of a novel.  It allowed me to get an idea down on paper.  (Well, computer screen.  Same difference.) It allowed me to see where I need to go from here with this novel.  It gave me the chance to create some really cool characters, some incredibly amazing ideas, some scenes that make me want to laugh or cry or both.

And my favorite thing?  It allowed me develop this sarcastic, witty, informal voice that I am absolutely in love with.  My MC makes jokes and funny comparisons to herself, and it’s straight up awesome.  To show you how great it is, here are some examples:

I watch in horror as Brylee’s long, lovely black ringlets become choppy strands of limp, cheek-length hair. It’s like a pixie cut done by a drunk pixie.


 

“Alright!” she says when she’s done. “Now for Stage Two!”

I swallow. Stage One was just so much fun.


 

The hot pink lipstick makes me feel like a total weirdo. A pretty wierdo, but a weirdo nonetheless.


 

“Wait wait wait!” Brylee says. “Let me get a picture.” She pulls out her Iphone, holds it up, and waits. “Oh, never mind. It’s dead. Maybe we’ll buy one of those portable chargers while we’re in town, and I’ll get a picture when we get back.”

“If we get back,” I mutter under my breath.

“Right,” says Daniel. “Either we get captured and killed, or we have to face Brylee’s photography. It’s a no-win situation.”


 

I glance around at the shop. It is, by far, the biggest jewelry store I’ve ever been in. And – don’t tell Brylee – the first magic jewelry store I’ve ever been in. The store is actually two levels. That’s right. Because one huge floor of too-sparkly bracelets and necklaces isn’t enough.


 

The spiral staircase is like an escalator, just, you know, spiral. Man, if I’m shocked by a spiral-staircase-magic-escalator, I really need to get out in the magic world more.


 

I look at the blue earrings on the table in front of me. I do really want them. But it seems silly to want something as frivolous as earrings when our lives might end in about fifteen minutes.


 

I think I’m gonna break a rib from holding my breath this long.


 

“You’re awake! Good,” says Brylee.  “Here, I’ve brought you some clothes. You might want to, uh, take a shower…” She looks at the floor, like she’s trying not to be rude about my appearance/smell/the fact that it’s now been thirty-six hours, one fire, and two teleportations since my hair has been brushed.


 

I can’t help thinking about Eric on the way home. You’re pretty, he’d told me. He must have terrible vision.


 

I stroke Fangar under the chin, and he purrs a cute Dragon-Purr. You think your sister will get less angry later? I ask him.

She just wants to eat someone, he says innocently. I swallow hard.


 

Adileen is still staring at me funny. I wonder if she’s a bit afraid of dragons, or if she just thinks they’re gross and might mess up her dress.

Probably the latter.


 

So, even though there are a lot of things that are totally wrong with my novel, there is so much that I actually love.  And I think I needed to step away from it for a week in order to realize that.  To see that it might actually have potential someday.

But not right now.  I think I need a bit more space from it before I keep writing/ do re-writes.  It seems like a good project to work on while I’m querying TSOC.  Yes, you heard right.  I do indeed plan to start querying in the next couple months.  Just as soon as I get around to writing a super awesome query letter.  BLOG POST COMING SOON ABOUT WRITING QUERY LETTERS!

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)

Getting it Write

This whole week, I’ve been working on one major plot point.

I knew where it needed to take the story, I just didn’t know how it got there.

So I thought.

And wrote some.

And thought some more.

And wrote some more.

But it never felt right.  I just wanted to give up.

Why write something if it was going to be terrible?  Why put effort into something that I was going to cut?  No, it was a better use of my time to check Facebook and Instagram.

But then I got an email from NaNoWriMo (even though I’m not doing July Camp, they still send me the emails for it).  It linked to a video title “How to Write When You Really Don’t Want To.”  I clicked on it.  And got motivated.  I needed to just sit down and write this scene!  Even if I wrote it wrong, I would know one way how not to write the scene.

So I sat down.

And wrote.

It was going wrong.

But then an idea struck me, so I went back and changed one part.

Then I kept writing, and another idea struck me!  So I changed that part, too.

Then I just kept writing.  Suddenly, BAM! It was like putting in the last few pieces of a puzzle – everything just fit.  The characters, the solution, the dialogue, the effect on the plot – it just worked.  And it felt so good.

So my advice to you?  Even if what you’re doing feels wrong, or is hard, or seems useless, keep writing.  Often times writing the wrong thing can act like a road sign that points to the right thing.

That’s what I learned from writing this week.  What did you learn?

Plot Thoughts

This post is actually NOT about Camp Nanowrimo.  (Well, not directly.)  Surprise!

When I started writing, I was a die-hard pantser.

Writing was like reading a book: I never knew what the characters were going to do, or say, or be.  If one of them died halfway through, great!  If they felt like meandering through a forest for eight pages, great!  There were no restrictions to where my imagination would take me.  And when I had that bizarre inspiration in the middle of the night, it would fit perfectly into the thing I called a plot.

Sure, I had some idea where the story was going (eventually), but it was allowed to take detours or scenic routes.

No more.

no more

I’m doing re-writes.  And I’m finally wrestling this monster called Plot under control.  It’s going down, kicking and screaming (and biting, too).  But it’s going down.

I know where my story starts now.  I know what the turning point is.  I’ve created conflict in the beginning (that was previously nonexistent).  I know about the conflict in the middle and the climax and the resolution.

Okay, so it still doesn’t fit into the magical Seven Points of Plotstuff (aka the Dan Wells Story Structure, as referenced today on one of my favorite blogs, Am I Doing This Right?)  or the Circus Tent for Instant Plotting (as referenced here on another of my favorite blogs, Crackin’ the WIP).

Actually, now that I look at the Dan Wells Thingy, maybe the Inciting Incident would be when Star meets Irsong and Emmella… and Plot Point 1 would be when she gets the Item… and then Pinch 1 when they find out he’s evil and they flee… and then… Plot Point 2… then…

Hey!  My plot actually matches that pretty well!  *Applauds myself*

The point to all this?  I really enjoyed being a pantser.  It gave me incredible freedom.  But going back and re-writing while knowing where I’m going is pretty cool too.  I loved the feeling I got while writing yesterday.  It was pure Oh-my-gosh-I-love-the-plot-and-this-conflict-is-beautiful-and-my-story-is-amazing-and-I-could-publish-this-someday.

Will I pants my next novel?  No idea.  Will I at least attempt an outline for it?  Probably.  Will I always be a pantser at heart?  I’m 99% sure the answer is yes.