Posts Tagged ‘plotting’

In Defense of Pantsers . . . Again

Friday, July 29th, 2016

I’ve posted before before, before, before, about being a seat of the pants writer and how often people who plot get pantsing wrong. Sigh. Understandably, of course, since it’s not something that works for them. But I’m pretty tired of hearing the same old “If you plot in advance, you’ll save so much time and write so much faster!”

Let me explode that myth.

Plotters need that pre-writing work, the outlines and charts and notes. But that work takes time and words.

Pantsers (typically) do very little pre-writing work. If that work exists, the outlines, charts and notes are minimal. That work takes ZERO to LESS time than the outlining.

Supposedly, pantsers discard more words and therefore plotting is superior because they’re not discarding whole chapters. But that does not withstand scrutiny. Outlines and charts and notes etcs are words that count in this comparison. They count because the pre-writing of plotters and the discarding of a chapter that proved a new direction is necessary is all part of the working-it-out phase of writing.

It really doesn’t matter when or where that occurs. If you need to do it up front before you’ve written any part of an actual chapter, awesome! If you need to wait until you get to that part of the story and then write some words, and then some different words, awesome!

Honestly, I’m just so tired of hearing people who write in more structured ways that non-structured ways are wasteful, I’ll just cry.

More important, if you’re a writer who thinks you can use any process instead of figuring out what works for you, well, that’s why you’re having trouble. Or your book is done and dead on the page.

Sadly, there’s no way to make it easy.


Why Plotting Does Not Work for Me

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I’ve started The Next Historical. I had to write a couple of paragraphs of a snyopsis of sorts to sell the thing. In the week leading up to actual writing, I brainstormed in my trusty notebook and had worked out what I thought would be good rough plot. I started writing yesterday. Wrote from the heroine’s POV and things were good. Wrote from the hero’s POV and things were . . . eh . . . something not quite right. It’s been nagging at me all day. My Plan included the hero retaining possession of a certain item belonging to the heroine. I had three (vague) scene ideas where she’d attempt to regain possession of said item. I notebooked those, too, by the way.

I started working on chapter 2 (hero’s POV) and the more I wrote and fleshed out, the more certain I was that the hero would simply not do that. Every word suggested something quite different. Then I wrote this paragraph where he sees the heroine for the first time and yeah. He just isn’t going to keep this item she needs and wants. It would be unkind of him to do that. His story is quite different from what I had envisioned.

There was just no way for me to discover this without writing the words that put me into his head. I needed the spark of words in the chapter before I saw this. I could, conceivably, have gone on to outline my original plan including the scenes I was thinking about. But thank goodness I know better than that now. I’d actually notebooked them fairly extensively.

The insight grew from my chapter 1 (which I might end up cutting or moving) in which my heroine turned out to have a different personality than I envisioned, and that carried into Chapter 2. I need the specific words, the actual writing, in order for that spark of realization to happen.

Your Mileage May Vary.



In which Carolyn keeps information from her hero

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

I redid what I lost last night. Packing in the research and learning some neat stuff. My 1958 guidebook on Aleppo arrived. Lot’s of neat information some of which changed the plot but mostly it’s changing itself as I write and discover my pretend plot was silly. Still a marriage under dire circumstances, but the circumstances are evolving. I killed off my first character yesterday, which I was too depressed to blog about after the big oops of August 20. A day of infamy, I tell you. Anyhow, this poor fellow had a stroke and well, he died,leaving the heroine all alone with another person who does not have her best interests at heart.

Neither does my hero, but he doesn’t know yet just how low he’s going to go. I don’t have the heart to tell him. Besides, he’ll find out eventually.

I have 41.5K words. Need more.

Off to bed. Will try to do better soon, I promise.


Memoire of a Plot

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Alas poor plot, I knew you well.

But now I’ve kicked you to the curb in favor of a brighter, shinier plot. A better plot. Sorry. But them’s the breaks when you’re at the mercy of a professional writer and panster. It’s not for the faint of heart, but there you have it.

Today, the machete came out. Maybe not the machete, but for sure it was the weed whacker. First, two or three days ago, I had this big but not enormous refinement which was great and good for more words. But right after I was almost done with that, I had a dream about a marriage under dire circumstances and it is just so way awesome a better plot I could hardly stand it.

Oh, new plot! I still get all shivery and excited just thinking about you.

I love you, brighter shinier plot!

But you are a High Maintenance kind of plot.

My New Plot is making me pay

Hence, the hacking and replacing. The new plot required that I change the names of some secondary but main characters, and first I changed it to Cartier because, well, it was half the solution to a crossword puzzle I’ve been working on and so it was on my mind. Only today I realized Ack! that left me with three names that start with C: Camilla, Crosshaven and Cartier.


So I changed that to Brooks becuase, well, confession time here. Meljean Brook’s Demon Night was sitting on the top of a pile of stuff I need to do something with (like just about everything in my room) because I want to keep it since it’s an awesome story, so I thought, hey, I’ll just stick an S on the end of Brook and no one will ever know I stole Meljean’s last name for my heroine’s cousins. Mwahahahah!

But then the fun part was over and I had to pretty much redo chapter 1 and then I ran out of time. I should be in bed already. Only I’m not.

But I’m about to. Thinking about my shiny new High Maintenance Plot that I still love.


Other Stuff that Happened Today

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

  • Got the RT review for My Wicked Enemy (see previous post)
  • Didn’t make it to the gym this AM because 4:30 was too early for someone who stayed up too late the night before. Came out of a dream at 5:15am–
  • The dream was one of those dreams where I am observing as a commentator in case my dreaming self is too stupid to get the significance of dreaming about the characters in my book —
  • Dream-observer Carolyn said something to the effect of: You DO realize that this is exactly the backstory that’s missing from your book, right? Your h/h get married in Anatolia.
  • Dream-observer appears to be right.
  • Celebrated my son’s 13th birthday. He acted just like a pre-teen, too. He was supremely uninterested in hanging with the family. He and his cousin disappeared into his room and performed Satanic almost-a-teenager rituals, I’m sure.
  • Talked with siblings and in-laws.

And now I’m going to bed airquotesearlyairquotes. The sad thing is, that’s exciting for me.


Hack Wheeze Cough plus AmaZING

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

And not from allergies. There’s so much smoke from fires in the area that the sky has been nothing but gray haze with a hint of smoke scent. Yuck. We had a pretty dry winter so the grass got dry(er) even faster than usual. Doesn’t take but a spark to get things burning. Hopefully they’ll get the fires under control soon.

The writing is going well enough. I had my first big (in effect) adjustment and today I went over chapters 1 and 2 to get that laid in. I’ve got 21K words so far.

My plot is emerging along with some unexpected, but cool, backstory. No List yet. I’m going to have to come up with another title.

Off to bed.

Updated to add: @marsphoenix is the most amazing Twitter feed EVER. It’s all about the Mars Phoenix project, and really, this would be a great way to find out about Twitter. Really.


Reporting In On Project Relaxation

Monday, May 5th, 2008

So, yeah. I’m not so sure how relaxing things have been. I’ve been trying to get all the stuff I’ve been ignoring for practically a year done and off the To-Do list. Today, I tackled a major one — which is getting together the paperwork for submitting an extension course proposal to my alma mater. I’ll refine it tomorrow and make a call to find out what I can email and what has to be snail-mailed.

Other than that, I’ve finally started in on the TBR pile. So far:

Mine to Possess By Nalini Singh. I’ve been meaning to read her forever, and at last I could. And am glad I did. Fun read!

The Short Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao By Junot Diaz (Still working on this one, but it’s great!) Only, I’ve set it aside for:

Indian Killer By Sherman Alexie

I’m becoming a Sherman Alexie fangirl. His YA The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was so freaking good — rush out and buy or borrow this book, people — I went out the next week and bought two of his adult titles. Wow. Just wow. He’s amazing.

I should be ashamed about setting aside Diaz, but you know what? It’s my TBR and I can read in whatever order I want and I can be reading as many books as I want at the same time, too.

Today, I notebooked some of the next historical and I think I nailed the basic idea. Things began very badly. All confusing and none of the parts were fitting together. But then I realized I needed to change the location and ta dah! everybody was very happy.

OK, off to bed because I want to read some before it’s too late.


In Which Two (2!) Funny things Happen Today

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I was busy all day and feel like I have nothing to show for it. That’s not so uncommon, I suppose, but I do get tired of all the little things that eat up my days. Honestly. Anyhooo…. Today I mailed back the copy-edits for My Wicked Enemy. That feels good. And, I’m told the cover will have special effects on the flames and some decorative bits. That’s pretty neat. Can’t wait to see the final! Then I had a few website updates to do. That always takes longer than I want it to and there’s managing or posting on the social sites like Twitter and My Space. Sigh.

The first funny thing that happened today is one of those, it’s scary to be a writer things: I’m going to be doing a few chapters of Xia in the Point of View (POV) of Kynan, the hero of the next book (this is assuming my publisher will want to go to contract on more; with a fancy cover, let’s hope so!) and I’ve been wracking my brains about the circumstances of the chapter and the fact that I want him to meet his heroine (but not know it) in at least one of those chapters. How to do that, I’ve been muttering to myself these last few days. So in an unrelated plotting dilemma, now that I have my first crucial fight scene drafted, my vague intention was that someone — didn’t know who, would call Kynan who would then do some stuff — careful, that’s advanced panster plotting there! I mulled over a bunch of lame-o or otherwise unsatisfactory ideas and moved on. I started thinking about the fact that my heroine has called her best friend (Kynan’s heroine-to-be) to arrange a get together, only the big fight comes along and by the time of the meeting Xia and Alexandrine are long gone from the house. So, I’m driving home and thinking about this and admitting that I cannot leave this appointment thing unresolved. What to do? I’m sure some of you are shouting the answer at me. Bear with me, please. So, I’m imagining the heroine-to-be standing at Alexandrine’s house where it’s obvious something awful has happened, and I swear to Dog, this is exactly what happened in my head — Kynan walks up to her and says, "Are you Alexandrine Marit?"

See, the whole time, Kynan has been trying to get a hold of Xia but can’t because Xia’s cell phone was crushed in the big fight. So he finally drives over to talk to him about what’s up and there’s the heroine-to-be wondering where her best friend is. Two problems solved with one frightening glimpse into the writer’s mind. Sometimes it’s best not to look too hard. But it was like I was watching T.V. or something. Kynan just walks up and voila!

Another funny thing happened today. Over on the Crimson City blog where no one has posted for ever and ever, because, well, we’re done with the City for now, it seems, someone posted two comments: Here they are for your reading pleasure, along with my response since, for good or ill, they were directed at my book:

my mom is reading "a darker crimson" with the characters Korzha, and Claudia Donovan, and I think the third is Lath. she’s almost finish[ed] reading and wants to know if their story line continues?

Nice! I think. But, hey! not so fast, Carolyn!

never mind about the continuation, she finally finished the book. And is cursing…" how the hell can an ultra alpha gorgeous male die at the hand of a twit who didn’t know her own lust. As she is banging on the table and cursing at the characters. it is a anti- climactic book. why could they both have her. love on one side lust on the other, the dumb twit didn’t deserve her. he wasn’t evil just true to his nature, i didn’t agree with him but that twit should not have be able to kill him and he deserved better than her twit ass self." "maybe she could write that he vanished and he really wasn’t dead. he deserves love too and make the twit jealous. maybe when he died he regenerated and now can have someone else better than her and make her jealous he just should go out like that"

Oh. But the thing is, I don’t really disagree. My response:

Dear Anonymous:

In the un-revised version of A Darker Crimson Lath did not die. But my editor, and others, strongly believed that Lath had to die. ::Sigh:: So, I did the dirty deed. I didn’t want to do it. Honest. But, I understood the Lath-Must-Die faction’s point. It’s not a traditional HEA ending if Tiber has a rival for Claudia’s affections at the end. Still…

Lath was a total hottie. But with writing, you cross some lines, which I did with Lath, and see if you get pulled back. Which I did. If it helps, my story (DX) in Shards of Crimson, features a demon who doesn’t die. And I have a book coming out where I got pulled back at a different line, a little further out. (Heh, heh!) So, yeah, I totally get your frustration.

Thanks for the comment, though. If you see this, feel free to email me directly, and I’ll send you the original chapter where he doesn’t die.

And I added my email address. I’m hoping she sees my reply either over there at the Crimson City blog


Back from the Frozen North

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Ok, let me just say that I have been cold for two days. The boys won all 3 of their soccer games and so they advance in the tournament and play next weekend in the frozen south.

I got some work done on Xia, naturally not as much as I’d hoped, but some and then a 2 hour drive home during which I plotted.

I’m tired. As soon as the laundry is in the dryer, I’m putting on my jams and going to bed.


It’s a plot, I tell you!

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Hopefully I can keep this short and sweet. (Right. I write novels!. I went to the gym while my son was at soccer practice. His practice lasts longer than my workout, so I notebooked while I was waiting for him to finish up. I worked out a lot of stuff. Folks, I think I have a complete plot! I worked through what issues I need to deal with in the remaining chapters. I wrote the first half of one of them tonight.

Tomorrow the Darling Child’s soccer game is 40 minutes away and he has to be there at 8:00 am. Sigh. Which is why I’m going to bed now. I have to get up early. But I’ll have the afternoon to work, plus I’m not dead tired like I was last weekend.

Off to bed.