Examining the Plotting Method Again

Examining the Plotting Method Again

A blog I’ve visited frequently to learn about writing is Fiction University. One of the posts, written by the owner, Janice Hardy, has stayed firm in my mind, Writers: Ignore This Writing Advice. If You Want. To have someone out-and-out tell me I don’t have to take the advice of accomplished authors gives me that sense of optimism that can propel me forward in any project I’m working on. I shed the notions of having to follow rules I find no use for and can be a wacky as I want.

She says it all for me in the first sentence of her second paragraph.

I’m a firm believer that there’s no right way to write, and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.

Albeit, not having straightforward guideline can also send my erratic brain into a frenzy, swinging from one side of the pendulum to the other. I wonder which of the sides is the better, not even considering all that is in the middle.

The current swank way to write a novel is to use the Plotting Method. Those who use this are call Plotters, of course. What this means is the writer does preliminary work centered around the story before diving into the chapters and scenes. There’s summaries, outlines, developmental arcs, questionnaires, and good old fashion research. The hardcore plotter does this before writing that first page of the first scene in that first chapter. Believe it or not, this approach to writing works for many authors.

Regardless of me being somewhat of a neat freak, wanting a schedule I can live with day in and day out, and wanting things so organized, spontaneousness gets squashed regularly, I find myself wanting to trash all the preparation the plotter goes through and get down to writing the blasted story. There’s enough of us who are pantsers, the ones who just put our butts in our chairs and start writing the first page of the first scene of chapter one, so I don’t have any guilty knocking going on in my head about how I’m proceeding with my project.

Still, after twelve scenes in my current WiP, I’m discovering the need to develop my second characters before I can continue with the story. His reactions, insights, and mannerisms will have such a bearing on my protagonist and what she does in response to not only him but everyone and everything in her world. Yes, this guy is more important than what is conveyed on the surface. Do I stop and fill out those sheets I’ve downloaded a various writing sites, or do I just forge ahead in hopes all turns out okay?

I question my sanity when I flounder with decisions like this. How can a person of such defined habits in life swing so wildly from one methodology to another, never landing long enough to see enough of what is working or is not working? The notion of not having hardcore rules could be playing havoc with my usual commonsense. Or maybe it’s a case of I’m assuming I have commonsense when, in reality, I’m as flaky as they come.

Either way, I’ve come to a crossroad where I must decide to either keep plodding along hoping all will come out all right despite my misgivings, or to put the story aside for a short time to do some development questionnaires, an arc, and maybe an outline. I wince at the thought of all this writing that will never make it to the first draft. Yet, if I’m honest with myself, I know the second draft will be twice as grueling if I just slog along with what I have so far.

Pondering on all of this, I’m reminded that there’s nothing telling me I can’t go ahead with a little plotting technique, get it done, and go back to good ol’ pantsing. Maybe I’ll be ensuing a new methodology of writing procedures this way. I wonder what this process would be called. I’m doing the groundwork as I need it. I’m developing as I go. Sitting here trying to think of a catch phrase, I’m coming up blank.

Maybe if I let it rest for a short while, the dust in my brain from the racing will clear and I’ll be able to find that term I want.


Writers spend three years rearranging 26 letters of the alphabet. It’s enough to make you lose your mind day by day. ~Richard Price


21 thoughts on “Examining the Plotting Method Again

  1. “I’m reminded that there’s nothing telling me I can’t go ahead with a little plotting technique, get it done, and go back to good ol’ pantsing. ” Your words – I think this is the key … great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you’re on the right track – for you. My suggestion: take a brief break and work on something else to give your mind a break from this story and some distance from what you perceive as problems. Then plot, or at least write some background notes about your characters and the influence they’ll wield on everyone else in the story. Then go back to your story with your fresh approach and your outline in place.
    I’ve always considered myself a pantser because I dislike the idea of formal outlines and the organization a detailed plot would require. However, I always write a great deal of what I call “background” info about my story: characters, locations, time periods, major themes and conflicts. Eventually I move into the story, sometimes not even realizing I’m writing the actual story. It has worked well for me.
    But as Janice Hardy notes: only use advice if it works for you. Otherwise, chart your own path. I have confidence in you, Glynis. You’re a storyteller and it’s going to come out.


    1. It’s uncanny you should mention working on something else for a while. It was two weeks ago when I started to slog in my WiP all because of this one character. It was about that same time my writing buddy suggested (several times) that I should try writing a book of essays. I began to split up my time between the WiP and this new project. As of four days ago, I’ve been doing editing on this second project and have laid the first one aside. Still, I think about my WiP daily, therefore this post.

      I’ve been using yWriter all this time for my projects. Any background work has been typed on Online Word or some other word processor program. This background-slipping-into-story thing you do is something I haven’t explored because of my attachment to yWriter. Gives me pause to consider.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m technologically deficient and resistant to learning anything new. I write everything on Microsoft Word, dozens of files for each book. It must be clumsy compared to what I could do if I’d learn how to use some of the programs designed for writing and research, but I ‘m used to my old fashioned system. Not recommending it to anyone else.


        1. I have folders galore, Sharon. They’re full of descriptions of my characters and settings. I use the yWriter because those little things I’m always forgetting are just a tab away. It’s me being impatient. 😛


  3. In so many businesses and processes, the goal is to do things, have things appear, have things ship – just in time. Maybe you’re a just-in-time plotter.

    I kind of like the idea, of course, I don’t write fiction, so..,but it seems it might help keep your character fresh.

    I do appreciate knowing that others struggle with and question the “rules”, thanks for that, Glynis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A Just-in-Time Plotter. I like that. It does define what this is that I’ll be doing. Thanks, Dan. 😀

      Dan, as you’ve probably noticed, as we get older, we find some rules are archaic, often to the point of being obsolete. Our years of life experience finally kick us in the head and tell us to get rid of the darn things.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I like the quote by Richard Price, which sums it up for me.
    Other than grammar and punctuation, the page awaits the story. Each writer has his or her approach, I suppose. What works one time for you, may not work another in the same way.
    All you (we) can do is forge ahead and get the story o.u.t. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent quote, Tess.

      I know full well that writing is an art. It requires the utmost in creativity. Yet, because of the disciplines of language, I have this dreadful tendency to sometime treat this art like a science, think everything must be just one way. I wish I was better at meshing the language rules with the art.


  5. I have started doing something different lately myself. I write my books in first person, but I have spots where secondary characters have conversations unbeknownst to the main character (until later of course). I have been writing those scenes out. It helps me develop those characters feelings, thoughts, emotions, etc and helps me gauge how my main character is going to react to them.

    It tends to help me with the spontaneity and keeps the creativity flowing.


  6. Well, dang it, I’m older than you. Not that it’s your fault. Glynis, thanks for stopping by IWSG today and leaving a comment on my post about Mr. Adverb. I agree, rules are made to be broken. What I don’t advocate is breaking rules that I don’t understand. That’s why, if asked, I’d say take a break, ponder something else, write an outline of what you have so far, or take a nap. IOWS, don’t listen to me. What’s your instincts telling you to do? That little voice inside of you knows better than any of us. Good luck. Don’t stress. You have the best job in the world: writing.


    1. You can’t be much older than me.

      I’m trying to take a break from the WiP but it invades my thoughts often. I’ve gotten some good ideas about how to work around this problem I have with this character just by writing this post. One of them a bound to work.

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope you come again.
      Your post on adverbs made me feel a little more confidence. So many articles are saying get rid of all adverb. I disagree with that but it seems no one was agree with me.


  7. I used to have students draw a picture of their writing process. When we shared, it would be apparent we all develop our own unique process. Yet, if we have a sense of the main steps that help most people in some fashion, it can be easier to incorporate them into a process that works for for each of us.


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