Saturday, October 19, 2013

Giving Plot to the Plotless (Introduction: The Experiment)

When it comes to starting a book, there are two kinds of writers: Pantsers and Plotters. We've heard this many times before, and by now most of us know where we stand on the spectrum. We either start writing and fly by the seat of our pants, letting our writing lead us where we may, or we sit down and outline our book from start to finish before we type the first word. Or, sometimes, a mix of both.

For awhile, I thought I was a pantser because, hey, I never wrote down outlines. I thought about the story in my head for a few days, then started writing. But as I matured as a writer, I realized I'd always been an plotter at heart. I was just too stubborn to put the outline down on paper.

In fact, its kind of impossible for me to be a pantser. When an idea hits me--a really good, I-need-to-write-this-down-now, kind of idea-- it often explodes. Within a few days of daydreaming I have the beginning, middle and end basically plotted out in my head and character arcs and relationships nailed down. I just need to fill in a few gaps and pieces before I'm ready to roll. My ideas mature very quickly and its hard for me to step into a story having no idea where its going to go.

And then, last year, something happened. Almost a year ago today in fact. I met my friend. We'll call her 'T' for short. T and I were talking about two of our characters in one of our writing conversations. She was recounting her main character's past and I kept on chiming in saying 'oh yeah, my character had something similar happen to him'. Eventually this expanded. Our characters would get along, we decided. In fact, it would be very interesting to write a conversation with them. Just one conversation to see what happened.

They had a conversation. Then we decided to write another scene. Then another. And yet another. Slowly, other characters started getting involved as we experimented relationships. New plot threads came in. And we just kept going, and going, and going. As of now, we have written about 2,000 pages of material.

Yikes right?

It gets even better. Now we're trying to distill all of this original material into a series of books with a plot. And it isn't easy. But it is one of the most fun and strange experiences I have ever had writing.

This is an interesting journey I've embarked on, and a long one. But I think its worth writing about because it has been a really unique experience for me. I'm an plotter who's been taken by her characters and dragged by the seat of her pants through hundreds of thousands of words of scenes in just a year.

The journey is still going, but let's see how far we've come, while discussing writing tips, outlining and plotting. It might have some good lessons for NaNoWriMo in there, as well. ;)

Stay tuned for Part 1: The Affair.

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