To Plot or Not?
By Lynda Lee Schab
There are as many ways to write a novel as there are wannabe novelists. Well, maybe not quite as many. But still, when you consider all the different ways there are to plot a novel or not plot a novel, it adds up to lots.
Here are a few ways. See if one of them is you:
Die Hard Plotter. This is the writer who spends months – yes, MONTHS – researching, plotting, charting, mapping, brainstorming, outlining, and planning, before they even write ONE WORD in their novel. For some writers, the key word here is DIE. Because that’s what they’d do before they end up a DHP. But hey, it works for some!
The Flaky Plotter – The snowflake method was created by author and physicist, Randy Ingermanson. It is a unique way of designing your novel using the “shape” of a snowflake. Many well-known and multi-published authors use (and highly recommend) this method. If you like to plot – but not as much as the DHP, this system may be your answer from above.
Noteworthy Plotter - This type of plotter invests in index card stock. She has millions of index cards on which she writes each scene. Then, using a story board (or the wall), she arranges her index cards in different sequences to create a complete story. The advantage is that if a scene doesn’t work in one place, you can move it to another. You can also “see” your story at a glance, spot any plot holes, and fix them, accordingly.
The Chapter Master - Some authors choose to sit down, number a few sheets of paper with the number of chapters they intend for their book, and write a paragraph or so of what they want to accomplish in each chapter. This is a good way to loosely plan your novel so you know the main points and general direction you’re taking but still have a lot of room to make stuff up as you go along.
The Roman Plotter - Looking at a page of Roman numerals, letters and subletters, may give you flashbacks of history class. Permission to pause and shudder. But some authors find this type of structured outline to be the perfect way to organize their thoughts and plan the course of their novel.
The Invisible Plotter - If you visited the Invisible Plotter’s office, chances are you would find no evidence of plotting. That’s because all of their plotting is done in their minds. They tend to mull things over, create plotlines and characters, and file them away in their mind’s pendeflex. After finishing a scene or chapter, some take a bit of time to just think and brainstorm about what will happen next. Once they get a general idea, their fingers start flying over the keyboard again.
The Pantser – Last, but not least, we have the Pantser. The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer that could care less about plotting in any form. Plotting cramps their creativity. And who likes cramps? Pantsers simply write. And write. And write. And see where the story takes them. Of course, Pantsers are the ones who usually have to go back and fix lots of stuff later. They probably spend much more time in the editing than the writing stage because they didn’t stop long enough to think things through the first time. But they don’t mind. In fact, it’s the only way they can write.
So what type are you? Do you extensively plot your novels or do you take the other extreme and wing it?
What it comes down to is that the way you write your novel isn’t as important as just getting it written.
Long-time FaithWriters member Lynda Lee Schab is a full-time freelance writer and author of the Madi series. She got her writing start in greeting cards (Blue Mountain Arts, Dayspring) and from there went on to write articles and short stories (Mature Living, Christian Home & School) and in many places online (including www.Examiner.com and www.wow-womenonwriting.com). As a freelance writer, she works behind the scenes at FaithWriters.com and is a regular book reviewer for FaithfulReader.com. She is also the Grand Rapids Christian Fiction Examiner and the National Writing Examiner for Examiner.com and a staff writer for www.SharedSorrows.com. Lynda admits she has a lot in common with the character of Madi. Not only are they both addicted to ice cream, chocolate, and computer games, they struggle with the same types of insecurities and continually require a hefty dose of God’s grace. Lynda lives with her husband, Rob, and two teenagers in Michigan.