Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In Behalf of the Plotters

I’ve been writing a long time.  Probably beginning with “The Adventures of Iggy Worm,” which my dad helped me write in kindergarten.  I caught the bug early and I always had a lot of ideas.  I loved the first few chapters: pen scribbling furiously, trying to get words down.  The only problem was… I never knew how to finish.  After 3 or 4 chapters, my ideas would sputter out and I’d get stuck.

And just about that time, I’d get a new idea and off I’d go again!

By 7th grade, I was pretty frustrated.  I had notebooks of unfinished stories.  I attempted a new novel and this time, I finished about 60 pages. 

Progress, right?

As a sophomore and junior in high school, I got another idea for a novel, but I let it sit.  For 6 months, I didn’t write a single scene.  I doodled random creatures from my fantasy world, wrote back-stories for characters and contemplated the plot.

Six Months!

For me, that took a lot of discipline.  I had to keep myself from writing until I was ready – until I knew the ending.

Once I started, I had a detailed, 21 page outline and an entire notebook filled with notes.  I was ready.  And the amazing thing is that I finished!  It was my first full length complete novel.

Since then, my writing process hasn’t changed much.  My stories come in flashes – just a glimpse or a hint of what can be.  Then I have to give it time and space, doodle and draw, scribbling out random thoughts until they finally come together, forming a whole picture.

Of course, over time, I’ve learned to speed up the process.  For my Red WIP, the idea came to me and I spent about a month pondering it.  Once I knew where my story was going, I was able to write the 1st draft – 50,000 words at that point – in 1 ½ weeks.

I’ve heard many argue that plotting (and especially extensive plotting) can ruin the creative journey.  What fun is the journey if there are no surprises on the way?

For me, the destination is just as important as the journey.  If I don’t know where I’m going, how do I know I’ve arrived?  Maybe it’s something I learned from my mom.  Plan in advance so that you don’t have to stress while you’re there.

What do you think?  Plotter or Pantser?