Monday, August 19, 2013

Share The Knowledge Series - Story Plotting and Planning

This week, while I am taking a quick break with the family, I am calling on the authors to work together with each other. During the SHARE THE KNOWLEDGE SERIES we will focus on a single issue each day and share how individual authors deal with some of those troubling issues in writing and publishing. Hopefully each day authors will be able to walk away with a new approach to writing, while at the same time, sharing with others things that have helped them in the past.

It is my hope that both published and unpublished authors help out! You know the success you get when you provide suggestions and get feedback from your critique groups. Now we are doing it on a larger scale.

The topic for today is:

How do you plot and plan out your stories? What techniques do you use to figure out what has to happen next in your book? Whether you are a plotter or a pantster, what do you do?


  1. I'm looking forward to the comments as my current method is probably too ad hoc. I've tended to use the 'wait for inspiration' method or 'think about aspects on boring commutes' approach. Since I am only on my own schedule I can afford to be patient but with my current w.i.p. the gaps became longer than I would have liked.

  2. I believe in the "figure out your ending first" method. You might have a map showing any number of routes to Dusseldorf, but you first have to decide you're going to Dusseldorf. Of course, with writing there's no map, either, or even locals you can ask for directions.

    Instead, I think about the characters, the personal conflicts they might face, the twists that could keep things interesting, and I brainstorm all the possible ways to get to the end of the story. Then it's filtering, juggling and stitching: I discard the cliche approaches, decide what elements are most powerful and make sense together, and finally settle on my favorite path. Then I do a rough outline with what I know about plot structure in mind (I admit I still have a lot to learn here).

    My outlines are not detailed enough, because I still have a lot of rewriting in the draft stages to do, but this still allows me the fun and freedom of 'pantsing' my way from plot point to plot point and seeing what the characters do along the way. Usually the outline changes as a result of what I discover: thus the extensive rewrites later. Still, it's at least a way to finish a book. Without that ending I'm striving toward, as well as a few sign-posts I set out to reach along the way, I'd never get that first draft done.

  3. First, I mentally tell myself the story from start to finish. Then I write down a summary (4-5 pgs. usually) based on that. Like Lorel, I have to know the ending. I also have to know if I want to devote months to this project. Does it excite me? Do I have all kinds of ideas burbling up regarding it?

    After that, it depends. I like simple outlines to keep track of the key scenes, and to have a sense of general direction. My outlines do tend to change and grow more detailed with each draft. I've had a couple of stories where I came up with interesting chapter titles and ran with them. No two novels are ever the same. =)