Sunday, January 13, 2008

When Plotting Isn't Much Different From Pantsing...

I think I've said this before but - I used to be a pantser and then when I started to sell books it behooved me to become a plotter and then I became a seriously anal retentive plotter. Fifteen page synopsis with snippets of dialogue and characters thoughts were my forte. And still are, but man they take a lot of time to do and I've got less and less time it seems every day.

And so now I find myself in a strange spot. I am at the big black moment and third act in my current WIP and I find that I need a little guidance because I've managed to keep my romantic conflict on the plot lines I had laid out - my subplots have run amock (in a seriously fantastic and bizarre way - I adore my subplots right now and don't want to change them) and now these crazy unplanned plot lines and my romantic plot line are converging. So, looking for guidance I go to the synopsis I turned in with the first three chapters, thinking that my anal retentive plotting habits will give me some footholds for writing my black moment scene.

Here's what it says:

J.D. comes face to face with his past and the man he believes he truly is.

What? Huh? That's what I came up with? Isn't that every black moment? Where are the snippets of dialogue? The clever thoughts I can just plug right into poor J.D.'s head? Where's the help? Where's the plot? Who does he think he is? Who do I think he is? I thought I did all this work already?

So, here I am staring at 50 blank pages. I've got a mob boss, ( I know? I'm not kidding - a mob boss) a pregnant teenager, a man who needs to go on the run from the mob boss, a nine year old boy who wants his mommy and a woman who wants to sleep the next 50 pages away because J.D. can't get his head out of his butt (not me, thought I wouldn't mind a nap) And I have no idea what to do with all of them. In fifty pages. Isn't this what pantsers face every time they sit down to write? It's making me a little nervous. And you know something - I just don't like it. Pantsing is for people braver than I.


Anonymous said...

I'm also a die-hard plotter, and a few days ago my plot blew up in my face. What's a writer to do? I need to stay in the lines, but the ABS is locked and I'm already veering off the road. Will the guard rail appear in time? >_<

Best wishes to you, though! I'm going to send you lots of Psyche Mojo and Head Lube for J.D. Men can be so difficult sometimes!

M. said...

hello, my name is maya, and i'm a full-on pantser (*hi, maya* the group choruses)

my most memorable strategy in dealing with not knowing how to move forward was abandoning that wip and starting a completely new one. worked great for getting me writing, not so much for working myself out of the stuck wip...

i have complete and utter faith in you - but please, get that little boy back to his mom pronto - i have two little men of my own and can't bear to think of someone like them crying for their mom, even if it is a fictional character...

Maureen McGowan said...

You'll get through it, Molly. You always do.

I still haven't figured out whether I'm a plotter or a pantser. I can't write without some general idea of where the book's going to end up, but on the other hand, I don't have the patience to plot out everything and since I've had no chance to ell on proposal, I haven't had to, yet.

I guess the closest I came was plotting out the sequel to the April Hillson book that I did when I thought April was sold. But when all that fell through, I never wrote past the fourth or fifth chapter of that book, so who knows how well my outline would have served me. Maybe some day I'll find out.

I still like the iterative process. Plan, write, go off in an unexpected direction, panic, and then plan again. It's scary, but I think it's what works best for me.

Sounds to me like you've hit the panic phase of your process. :-)

Natasha72 said...

Hiya Molly (waves from Illinois)-
I've been reading your blog for some time and thought the panic in your post might indicate it's time to come out of lurkdom-ville. Granted, I haven't been writing long but I'm a pantser. Tried to be a plotter. Can't do it.

So this is what I usually do when the muses have duct tape over their mouths. Harps. Whatever the heck muses use to get their stuff to me.

Chocolate. When it's used for medicinal purposes (aka curbing panic) it has zero calories.

Spider soliatire, forty theives and free cell. I may not be on the best seller list (yet), but man I kick a** at spider soliatire. There should be a song written about how good I am at spider solitaire.

Laundry. That's right. You read it. I'm scraping the bottom of the procrastination bucket, but I've been known to wash, fold, put away and occasionally iron in the name of avoiding a blank page.

The trifecta of investigation - blog checking, forum catch up and website analysis. This is in the hopes good writing mojo will transfer via the world wide web. It didn't work when I used to try and learn physics by sleeping with the book under my pillow rather than actually open the book - but I'm a Capricon. We like to learn the hard way. And then check and make sure the same rules still apply.

When all of that doesn't work I try this. I think about one word. One line. One page. Not fifty. One.

And if that doesn't rip the tape of the muse's mouth: Chocolate.

You're okay. Breathe deep. Eat chocolate.

Love - Tasha

Molly O'Keefe said...

Hey Tasha! Glad to see you out of lurkdom. I hear you with the chocolate - one of the bakeries near me has what has to be the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. And in the last five days I've probably had about twenty. And you know - it's working. It really is. I just finished the damn thing!

I think what I've come out of this with is that I do need to figure out my particular hybrid of plotting or pantsing. The pantsing aspect of this last book brought me some crazy good things - my subplots. My weird mafia related subplots. But I spend days trying to figure stuff out -which in the middle of a book feels like a nightmare. While at the beginning of the book - in the planning stages - I am prepared to spend as many days as I need. So, I need to either just get a grip of this new process or fine tune it.
I'm going to have a chocolate chip cookie and think about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely a plotter, I freeze when I don't know what's happening next, but I can never figure out the whole book. Just the main events, and usually those change..

I'm not sure I'm committed to plotting out the entire thing in advance..

Wylie Kinson said...

I wish I could offer you advice, or give you my magic lamp (mine, all mine!!!) but I'm short on wisdom these days. (if you doubt this, see my Christmas Tree post)

But I can't wait to read it!! :D

K J Gillenwater said...

Actually, this doesn't happen to me quite as severely as you are describing. As a pantster, I usually have a good idea of all the big emotional moments and the ending of my book before I really get started. And these are not written down in an outline, they are just in my head. The stuff I don't know and sometimes stress about are the connecting parts and the little details.

Sounds like you need to maybe cut some of your secondary storylines. That's a lot of characters with things to do in one book...unless, of course, they are all connected to the main plot.

I don't like to veer too off course with secondary characters...unless their thoughts, activities, reactions support the main story or enhance the main story.

Not sure if that helps or hurt!?

Good luck!

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