I can’t tell you how many blogs and articles I’ve read about how “pantsers” need to become “plotters” to write a novel. Well, I disagree, and I agree all the same. Talk about sitting on the fence. But seriously, I see the benefits in sitting on the fence and effectively walking the line versus picking a side. Let me explain why I stay on the fence, and why it is important as a “pantser” to do some plotting to achieve a thoughtfully crafted product. As I enjoy using metaphors, I’ll use one to illustrate my conclusion that “pantsers” should do some (if not a lot of) plotting.
Maybe you write like I do. As I write books, my subconscious plotting process kicks in and I create a novel with three solid acts.
Many of the critical elements of plots—hook, pinch points, midpoint, climax, resolution, etc.—naturally fall into place. Effectively, I’ve baked a pretty darn good chocolate chip cookie. But I did so simply by tossing in ingredients, adding what feels right, and mixing things up, until voilà! I wrote a book. I’ve had successes doing it this way. Then I decided to take my “baking approach” up a notch and write a book that is a little more complex. In other words, I decided to turn that chocolate chip cookie into a gourmet one. This required selecting exotic ingredients, measuring them exactly, incorporating them in the correct order, and baking them at the precise temperature—not to mention decorating them. So, my “pantsing” approach to baking wouldn’t cut it—pun intended.
This is when I started exploring plotting.
But I quickly became overwhelmed by the sheer number of plotting options out there. From “Save the Cat” to the “Hero’s Journey” and on to the “Six Stage Structure,” to name just a few. Then came the terminology. What’s a “Pinch Point?” How does a beat differ from a plot point? The confusion grew and I wondered, how can plotting make things easier? It’s like learning a foreign language!
I went from baking blindly to being a competitor on “Top Chef!” Queue freak out!
Thankfully, one of my writing buddies cleared things up. As an expert plotter, they shared how they’ve created their own version based on the expert’s advice. They designed something that uniquely works for them and has helped them become a prolific author. That inspiration and advice led me to start slowly with three acts, then add in a few plot elements that I understood. Then I broke down my novel into three, aligned it with the appropriate word count, and in time, discovered the benefits of plotting beforehand, and along the way.
If you’re a writer like me and need a gentle nudge toward plotting, start slow. But before you even begin, do your homework. Take time to look at your options, but don’t get overwhelmed. Just look. Then look again. Create your own three act structure and slowly, carefully, thoughtfully, incorporate the other ingredients that serve you. In time you’ll find your rhythm. Even if you decide to walk the ridge-line like me, you’ll reap the benefits from a well-balanced approach.
Check out the following articles to help you get started and PLEASE share your own experiences in the comments box!
Writers and Authors, share your approach and wisdom below!