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:~: Monday, October 09, 2006 :~:

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Joan recently asked me, "How's the book coming along?" A harmless question really, to which I gave a very detailed and lengthy answer, one I won't bore you with here. I am going to give you the gist of my response though because it relates to my post here today. Basically, I said, "It's going places I never expected."

I'm not a plotter. You all know that. I am the lone pantster in our RWKF group. I take an idea and go with it. When I start a book I have a good visual of the characters, I know the setup, some of their backstory, the basic plot, and usually the end - to both the romantic thread and the suspense thread. Everything else is a mystery. The book I'm working on now, however, is directly linked to the last book I wrote. Not a series per se, but connected in a variety of capacities, least among which through the characters. The main characters were secondary characters in the last book, and they were secondary characters I never planned on writing about. But when I finally gave in to their demands for their own story, I thought writing this book would be easier than others I've started. Why? Easy. I already knew my characters so well.

Boy, was I clueless.

My heroine did not have a POV scene in the last book, and so getting into her skin has required more work - which I knew going in. But I assumed when I got to the hero - who played an integral part in both the suspense thread and romantic thread of book one - things would really pick up. What I've found has been the opposite. My heroine has been easier to get to know, and my hero - this man I thought I knew so well - has thrown me for a complete loop.

Why, you ask?

Let me tell you. He's got layers. Lots of layers. And some serious issues I didn't realize when I started writing his book. Those issues came out in his first POV scene. Things I hadn't planned. But as soon as my fingers started clicking and the words began to fill the page, he came to life. In every sense of the word. Suddenly, things I'd alluded to in book one made gobs of sense. His actions, his reactions, his thoughts and to some extent, other characters' perceptions of him, grew clear. Did I instinctively know him when I wrote book one? I never would have thought so, but maybe I did.

This is one of those mysteries about writing I absolutely love. When things "click" without you consciously realizing they're clicking, without you, the writer, spending hours conceptualizing the link between point A and point B. And for me, it's one of the reasons I don't plot. The few books I've sat down and plotted from beginning to end never work. Aside from making my brain feel like it's going to explode, and aside from the fact plotting in detail makes me lose enthusiasm for a book, when I plot in excessive detail, I lose the magic that brings it all together. I lose those moments where I slap my hand against my head and yell, "Aha! So that's why he did that in chapter 3!! Now it makes perfect sense!"

Is winging it easy? Heck no. Sometimes I think knowing everything in minute detail would be way easier when it came right down to writing, but inevitably when I take that magic out of my writing, I lose the intangible quality that makes me love what I do.

My dear friend Lisa is going to show me a new plotting method she learned at last weekend's Emerald City Writer's Conference. I'm excited to hear what she learned simply because I love learning anything new related to writing. Will I follow it? I won't say no, but odds are probably not. However, I'm always open to new things, especially when I know there might be something useful I can take and incorporate into my own unique head-plotting/pantstering method that works for me. That's what writing's all about - finding what works for you, taking bits and pieces of the knowledge others pass on to you and using what you can to bring your writing to life. Sometimes you hit on a fabulous new method, and sometimes you don't. And sometimes when things really click, you're left quoting George Peppard as Hannibal in that old 80's hit, The A-Team:

"I love it when a plan comes together."

What's the best writing tip, method or strategy you've learned in the past six months and how have you incorporated it into your own writing?

7Comments:

Blogger Lisa Pulliam said...

The best one I've learned? Well, it's the one I'm going to show you. ;-) I really like it. In fact I want to spread the love and share it with our chapter. It's great for plotters and pansters. You can do as little or as much with it as you like. And it's very visual so you can see if you go to long without the hero's POV, or if all of your suspense elements are clumped together in the middle of the book. It's similar to the tag board stuff we've both been doing already, but better.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Oh, Lisa, you're evil!! What about the rest of us????

If you can sketch it up, make notes and fax it to me, I'll put it up on my site with a link.

Come on -- you can't keep us non-members in the dark!!

3:08 PM  
Blogger Lisa Pulliam said...

Sounds good, Joan! I'm giving it a try for the first time right now. Once I have my board plotted out I'll do a write-up and send it to you. It's Cherry Adair's plotting method. She's brilliant!

3:50 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Can't wait to see it, Lisa! Now you've got me visualizing a whole new plotting method. Any time I hear "a pantster can use it" I'm uber-intrigued.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

I'm a plantster! LOL So it would be interesting to see this info Lisa.

As for what I learned lately?? Well, I thought I learned how to really use destription in my narrative. I came home all excited to incorporate it only to read my stuff and see I already do!

6:48 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

Eli, I'm mostly a pantser, and the same thing happens to me. I'll think of a new plot point and realize I've been dropping hints about it all along. My subconscious knew before I did.

When I start a new book, I do a plotting party with a few members of my local chapter. All I need are the GMCs, the premise, the black moments and the end. That's plenty for me, but good luck with the new method!

9:31 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Edie, you and I sound waaaay too much alike. Are you sure we aren't twins separated at birth? ;)

That's all I need when I start too. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one.

9:34 PM  

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