By Karen Docter
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
This is the first question I ask all of the students in my online workshop, ?The ?W? Plot?or The Other White Meat for Plotters©?. When we begin writing we quickly slide into one of these two categories. Somewhere along the line we learn plotting is either easy for us, the Beauty, or equivalent to ripping our heart out, the Beast. Some of us know why we teeter in one direction or the other. Some of us know what we are but not necessarily why we work this way.
I can almost guarantee if I drop the word plot in a room full of writers I can identify the plotters and pantsers just by examining facial expressions and body language. There will be the die-hard plotters who are likely to return to their conversations because they are secure in their plotting method. Some plotters may perk up and pay attention, especially if they haven?t found a method that quite suits all their needs. Then, there are those eager authors who?ve never met a plotting method they didn?t like. Scattered among these writers, you?ll spot the pantser. The ?sailing into the mist? writer. The ?My muse will die a fiery death if I even whisper that foul four letter word in her presence? writer. This is where the facial expressions and body language can get interesting.
Don?t worry. I won?t rat you out. I do, however, want you to think about the kind of writer you are and the pros and cons of each choice.
If you?re a plotter, what?s your favorite plotting method? How far do you go with your planning? Have you thought about how much you need to know before you feel you can start the book? What do you do if your story falls apart before you type ?The End?? Do you find your plot points sometimes don?t make sense when you get to them or they simply won?t get you where you want to go? Do you know when to stop plotting?
If you?re a die-hard pantser what is it specifically about plotting that you don?t like? Do you find you can?t plan anything without traumatizing your poor muse? On the other hand, what do you do when you run into walls that suddenly appear without warning midway through the book? How do you deal with sagging middles? Do you find yourself in perpetual revision mode because your muse isn?t watching where she?s going?
Like everything else in writing you, alone, have to find the best ways to probe your creativity and present your stories to the world. What I try to do when I teach the ?W? plotting technique is help you to delve a little deeper into how you create and consider the possibility that this one plotting method may address the shortfalls in whatever technique you currently use. In the past six years I?ve been teaching the ?W?, I?ve yet to have a student return to tell me it doesn?t work for them. Even the pantsers like me. Especially the pantsers.
How does the technique work? You actually use a W structure to trace individual character goals from novel start to ?The End.? You identify only 9 pivotal plot points per character on that structure, and then weave the structures together until you?ve built the skeleton of your story. If, for instance, you write single title romantic suspense that means you trace a ?W? structure for the hero/protagonist [9 plot points], heroine/protagonist [ 9 plot points], villain/antagonist [9 plot points], and romance [9 plot points] for 36 plot points. If you write straight romance, you identify only 27 points. If you have a larger story with one or two secondary characters with their own sub-plot figure on 9-18 more plot points.
It is this simplistic approach that makes this method work for so many writers. The structures you build are flexible, making it easier to seamlessly intertwine the action and story threads. Yet it allows a lot of latitude for creativity, for growth, for change. It?s visual and allows you to see the potential gaps in a storyline so you can move scenes around before you write yourself into a corner. It is this malleability that appeals to pantsers. It?s what sold me on the technique after so many plotting methods failed to resonate with my cranky muse.
Do I still consider myself a pantser? Absolutely! I?m a pantser?who plots. I?ve tamed the Beast. You can, too. Learn the technique by applying it directly to your own novel. Please join me online at savvyauthors.com for my workshop, ?The ?W? Plot?Or The Other White Meat for Plotters©? beginning June 28, 2010. We?ll have fun!
Plotting…Beauty or Beast?
First Print – savvyauthors.com blog, June, 2010
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