Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Long and Winding Story

Plot: (in regards to writing) noun. -- Storyline. The plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel, or short story.

When someone asks, "What is your story about?"
How do you answer? What do you say? Do you fumble about, trying to articulate what your 100,000 word novel is really about?

When you begin writing your book, do you know what will happen? Do you know where the roadmap of your story will lead you and your characters?

One of the elements of writing that is most difficult for me is plotting.
I write long romantic suspense stories with two main protagonists and several secondary characters. I introduce conflicts that center around the romance along with the mystery/suspense of the story. And... I weave in a secondary romance as well.

This can lead to some diverse characterization and powerful conflict, however it can also make for some bumpy plotting if the author is not prepared.
When I begin a story I do some basic plotting but no serious outline. Up until now I have been more of a pantser than a plotter. I'm not certain who coined the phrase pantser, but it means writing by the seat of your pants. I do this way more than I should.
But I'm learning to change my ways. Especially now that I'm crafting a four book series. It's imperative for me to write an outline for my plot and keep careful track of my characters. I don't want to lose my story or momentum as I hurdle over a creative cliff half way through my manuscript. It happened to one of my works in progress. Very frustrating!
It's a story I love but not certain I can finish the book without a complete rewrite.

I won't give up my writing life as a pantser but now I'm a plotter too. Find a balance that works for you and your creative process.

Recommendations to help with plotting:

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser?


Robin said...

Cindy -- This is an illuminating post on plots. I've been thinking that poems, especially narrative poems, also have a plot. Stories come in all shapes and sizes! Thanks for sharing.

Cynthia Sherrick said...

Thanks for reading, Robin. Stories definitely come in all shapes and sizes. ;)

Dell Smith said...

Hey Cindy. I don't know how you keep all those threads organized. I'm having some similar challenges and I've been working with an outline. Not sure exactly where or how my family saga with multiple narrators will end.
Kathy Crowley recently did a BTM post on timelines ( Recommended because she lists some resources (software, excel templates, and more) that can help you map your timelines. Something you may need as you write four novels in a series! You are a brave one. I hope we hear more about that in your upcoming posts.

Cynthia Sherrick said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Dell. I haven't researched any software for plotting... yet. ;)