If you want to write a novel, there are basically two schools of thought on how you go about it. You either belong to Team Plotters or Team Pantsers. Those who identify themselves as "Plotters," like to plan out their novel before they ever write it. "Pantsers" on the other hand, tend to write by the seat of their pants. They go with the flow and hope one thing leads to another.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. As a Plotter you always know what is coming next, this might help eliminate the dreaded writer's block that so many writers fear. However, when you do change one thing it can set off a chain reaction where you have to change many things.
When you are a Pantser, you have few restrictions so if you add a character or kill a figure it doesn't slow you down. You open yourself up to spontaneous creativity. The problem is sometimes you write yourself into a corner. Which might cause writer's block, which can disrupt your creative juices, for days, weeks, or even months.
For a long time, I did not think of myself as a member of either team. I was just a writer. When I was inspired, I wrote. When I wasn't, I did something else, like research, or Facebook, or whatever. So, what changed? I was trying to find something I had bookmarked a while back. I had a folder that said Writing Stuff, but inside I had 154 links placed randomly over the last several years. Finding it was harder than I expected. After a while, I did get it sorted out. Now I open Write Stuff and see four folders - Book Reviews, Research, Scrivener, and Writing Websites. Each of those folders may have other folders but no more than 15 links in each one. So now if I want to find information on Virginia Dare, for example, I go Write Stuff >> Research >> Virginia Dare. Looking at 10 links is a lot easier than 154.
You might be saying what does that have to do with writing? You are right that is only a symptom of a much bigger problem. Let me give you a real-world example that you might relate to better.
You decide to write a Time Travel novel where students learn to become Time Travelers. You have two main characters, so you need a character sketch and background story for both. It is a school, so you know there must be other students. You create four to six more couples. Remember to write a character sketch and background story for each. So far, so good. Of course, they must learn from someone, so you create six instructors, same information required. You plan for four or five adventures over the length of the story. Now you have the people they meet, the settings for each mission, the physical description for each person, the overall plot, the subplots and more. THAT is a lot of information to keep in your head.
The last thing you want to do is describe your hero with blue eyes on one page, and two chapters later give them brown eyes. Who is it that has the sister with Tourette Syndrome? Who fell off a waterfall as a child? Who used to be a painter?
Don't get me wrong, it can be done. Just like I could have found that link I wanted, eventually. I used to think that using an outline was somehow cheating. I thought it would stifle my creativity. I thought it would be boring if I planned.
Those who defend being a Pantser will say, but I need to be able to go wherever the story takes me. I've got news for you, being a Plotter does not mean you plot out your character's daily wardrobe for six years. Knowing physical descriptions, background stories and the setting where specific events happen can make life so much easier. It's up to you how much you want to plan in advance.
Some will say that's all part of the research. I would argue if it's not written down, where you can find it, then it doesn't really help. I had tons of links, but the longer I took to see them, the more likely I would get distracted. I guess you could call me a "Tweener," because now I am somewhere between the traditional Plotter verses the hardcore Pantser.
Someday I might even break down and do a synopsis of each chapter, but not today. For the moment, I just want to write, but that doesn't mean I have to remember all those details all the time. Planning in advance (Plotting, if you will), is like goal setting. If you don't write it down, it doesn't count. Take some of the stress off your shoulders, and try Plotting for a change.
By Tedric Garrison | Submitted On November 12, 2017
Award-winning writer/photographer Tedric Garrison has 40 years experience in both areas of expertise. As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective on the Elements of Design and how they relate to photography. His photo eBook; Finding Your Creative Edge in Photography proves creativity CAN be taught. Tedric shares both his writing and photography skills at his new website: http://writephotos.weebly.com
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