Showing posts with label plotters vs pantsers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label plotters vs pantsers. Show all posts

Plotter or Pantser

Are You a Plotter or Pantser?
What is your preferred method of writing. Do you like to write freely with little more than a main idea as your direction? Or, do you prefer to outline your story or novel first, then allow your fingers to fly over the keyboard? I find that I write with more clarity and more efficiently if I have a plan. When I just “go for it” with little more than a main idea my rewrite is so laborious that I avoid tackling it for weeks at a time. So, I prefer to outline the basics of what I want to say, and let my creativity fly within that framework.

Considering what Plot is can be confusing. If Plot is “what happens”, why does the discussion instantly branch out to character development, inciting incident, tension building to the climax, etc., etc., etc. The answer is—story plot and story structure always go together. You cannot have one without the other.

Plot is “what happens” in a story. In essence, Plots are the events that move a character from one point to another shaping the story with conflict: inward and outward, emotional and physical. Each event brings an element of tension and conflict to the story. What should be the first step to developing the plot? Knowing what we want to say—then theme, and the creation of a main character, the protagonist.

The protagonist needs an intense goal with obstacles in the way of the goal. He or she must overcome each obstacle to reach the goal. The path through each event is dynamic as internal and external conflicts arise.  This drives the action of the plot forward, and grabs our reader’s interest in such a way that they don’t put the book down. 
Writing a story involves creativity and discovery. Ask yourself questions to uncover the events, the setting, and the conflicts. Ask, ask and ask some more. Follow the answers and keep asking why? Important connections will follow from this way to discovery.

A one-sentence premise is essential to a strong story. The premise will serve as a map to guide and focus the writing. It is a tough job to condense the story idea to one sentence, but it’s important and will be used again, and again as you pitch your book to agents, publishers, and consumers.

Plotting is an involved journey. Have fun with it!

Deborah Lyn Stanley is a writer, artist, and editor.  She is a retired project manager who now devotes her time to writing, art and caregiving mentally impaired seniors.  Deborah writes articles, essays and stories. She has published a collection of 24 artists’ interviews entitled the Artists Interview Series.  Careful editing preserves the artist’s voice as they share their journey. The series published as monthly articles for an online news network, can also be found on her web-blog: DeborahLyn Stanley - Writers Blog.  Her “How-To” articles have appeared in magazines. 
“Write your best, in your voice, your way!”



You think you have an idea for a story or book. But it’s nebulous, fuzzy and feels just out of reach. You stare at the blank screen or paper, depending on how you plan or write. Nothing happens.
We’ve all been there.

As I contemplated Nanowrimo this year I sat inside those shoes. This was the third year I’d be working on the same story concept. Each attempt had evolved into a different story. But none were the right one. None had that spark. In fact, I couldn’t even finish any I’d started so far.

So I sought help. I read books and blogs and thought hard.

Then the story began to coalesce into a real plotline with protag and antag and all of the turning points and climax and and and. I got excited. Finally the story was writing itself, almost, but at least all of the necessary elements were there.

Now that I’ve finished my Nanowrimo with over 50,000 words by November 25th, and I’m into the climax of the story, I’m finally pleased and excited to begin editing and polishing. I finally think I got a good thing written that others will enjoy reading.

Isn’t that the reason we’re in this business?

So now you’re asking, “What did you ask yourself to attain such magnificence?”

I’ll give you some questions to ask yourself in the planning stages. These should guide your thinking and start the ball rolling. They did for me.

PREMISE-This gives you a clear idea of what the story is about:
·         What if?
·         What is expected?
·         What’s unexpected?

For me, it meant: What if Rayna didn’t have red hair? (the cause of all her problems); What if she wasn’t a twin? (another serious issue she faces) and so. What is expected? Rayna will hate the restrictions of living in the Gestortium. Her red hair will cause problems. What is unexpected? (this is harder to predict and I didn’t know until I started writing the story)

So what became the PREMISE for my story after all of my thinking? This:
Hidden away from society for her protection, Rayna is forced into her societally expected role under duress and endangered by the very reasons she was hidden while discovering the truth of her birth, who she is and what her future holds.

Next month, determining your BIG PLOT MOMENTS, aka turning or plot points.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at  You may email her at

Basic Writing : From Pre-Writing to Editing

Basic Writing : From Pre-Writing to Editing

Concept/Idea (Brainstorm about chosen idea. Write everything that comes to mind.)

Conflict/Problem (Without a problem there is no story. Be sure the problem is solvable.)
            Possible Conflicts: man vs man, man vs nature, man vs self, man vs society, man vs circumstances

Characters (No more than 7 main; the story becomes unmanageable and readers lose track.
 Devise: Names, Personalities, Relationships, Appearances, What makes them special.)

Plot (Devise 3 attempts to solve the problem. Then figure out why they won't work?)

Solution/Climax (How does the main character solve the problem? Is it reasonable as you’ve written her/him?)

Conclusion (Wrap up loose ends with all of the characters.)

Also Pre-Writing
Opening-be sure your beginning snatches the reader’s attention (pull action from within the story then go back and begin at the beginning to catch the reader up)

1st Plot Point-main character discovers there is a problem

2nd Plot Point-main character feels threatened but unsure what to do

3rd Plot Point-problem is at its worst and seems hopeless THEN main character figures out what to do

Climax-problem or antagonist pulls out all the stops to ‘get’ main character

Denouement-main character about to give-in then finds courage and knowledge to solve the problem

Resolution-main character ends the problem for good then wraps up loose ends with other characters

There are two main types of writers, although many of us fall into combo categories:  Planners and Pantsers.

Planners don’t write until they have a basic outline of how the story will unravel. Some even outline each chapter. Planning doesn’t mean you can’t change something, or add more while writing a chapter. It simply helps you remember everything you wanted to include in the story. (This is how I write.)

            Pantsers (writing by the seat of your pants) begin writing and don’t stop until the story is told. This technique is very popular but requires extreme editing and revising. It also allows for free flow of imagination and creativity. (This is how Odessa came out and why it needed (and still needs) so much revising/editing.)

New paragraph for each new thought or idea or speaker.

Use quotation marks around the “words” spoken by the character. Instead of dialogue tags (he said, she remarked) use action. (His gaze flicked away from her face. Her voice dropped so low he could barely hear her.)
Each speaker requires a new paragraph.

Watch verb tenses: if you start in the past keep all of your verbs past tense; if you write in the present tense make sure they are all present tense verbs.

            Right-He ran down the road then stopped at the intersection.
            Wrong-He ran down the road then stops at the intersection.

Present tense is seldom used. I find present tense confusing and disarming. You are telling a story that occurred in the past, so use past tense verbs.
Watch out for point of view (POV).

            POV confuses a lot of beginning writers. It means knowing what a character is thinking or planning. Knowing their viewpoint.

            Many MG stories are generally told in third person while many YA books these days are in first person. HOWEVER, there is no rule about this. Write the story in whoever's point of view you wish--just keep it balanced.

 If writing in the first person (I, me, my , we, our) you CANNOT know what others are thinking or planning.  It takes a lot of dialogue to understand others’ thoughts or desires.

·        The only way to know what everyone is thinking is to use third person omniscient.
·        But be careful because even that gets tricky.
·        If you switch POV, be sure to designate it with a space or asterisks *****.
·        Never change POV inside the same paragraph (called mind hopping, it becomes very confusing).

Beware of ‘Purple Prose’. This is highly descriptive writing that may sound awesome but sometimes does nothing to promote the story. You should have some description so the reader can visualize what the character is sensing, just don’t go overboard.

Every word, action or dialogue should propel the story forward. If you have chapters or even paragraphs for character development alone, remove them. Chapters with too much description of surroundings or too much backstory/history get boring and readers will skip ahead anyway so edit down to only what is necessary to tell the story.

Don’t tell too much of the story up front. Let out the line slowly, keep most of the story as a mystery with clues until the climax when you can reveal more. Too much too soon and the reader loses interest in the story.

Don’t be afraid to revise, revise, revise. Get feedback from others and make changes to your story that YOU think will improve it. NO ONE writes the perfect story the first time.

My first book, Odessa, was revised about 8 times and even after publication I'm itching to revise it again because by five books later my writing has improved so much I'm no longer happy with Odessa.

Let your story sit on a shelf for several weeks or a month. Work on another project. Then reread the story and errors, misspellings, weak characters, weak plot lines, etc will jump out at you.

Once you have the story to a level you are happy with it is time to edit.
Remove as many adverbs as possible and replace them with stronger verbs. To locate adverbs easily, highlight them using the ‘replace’ box in the ‘editing’ box of MS Word. Highlight –ly and most adverbs will appear. Read through and eliminate as many as you can.

Highlight the following words in the entire manuscript then go through removing or replacing them with more powerful words/phrases:
SAID (or ANY speech tags-replace with action)
any word you see repeated often

Remove as many adjectives as you can. Do not use duplicate adjectives such as “very beautiful”. If something is beautiful that is enough. Very becomes redundant. Better yet, describe HOW it is beautiful without using the word. Beauty is subjective.

WEAK: The river was beautiful that morning.
BETTER: Sun rays leaking through the early morning mist, lent the river a mystic quality.

Use Spell Check and look-up words that are misspelled.
Pay attention to punctuation. If you’re not sure about its usage this website will help .

Probably MOST IMPORTANTLY--learn from your editor. My first book, Odessa, looked like a dying warrior after a lengthy battle with dragons--it was covered with red gashes. My latest book, ending edits now and soon to be released (Harpies Book Two of Seraphym Wars Series) looked as though it had taken a short walk through nice woods--a couple of little scratches! Even my editor was surprised and happy with my writing progress. So the bottom line is this--make notes of your mistakes then PRE-EDIT after your final revision. You'll save your editor a lot of time and frustration and yourself money and embarrassment. 

Here's a little blurb about Harpies. Watch my website for its release: Under the Hat of MG/YA Dark Fantasy Author Rebecca Ryals Russell

Transported to a planet he'd never heard of was the least of fifteen-year-old Griffen's problems. Learning to control his suddenly increasing strength and new ability to pull lightning from the sky takes some getting used to.  Angry preteen Seth joins the quest; meanwhile discovering his combusting ability as a fire-starter. Driven to find the last Vigorio, a young girl able to experience others' emotions, they journey together toward their destinies as warriors against Narciss, Ruler of Tartarus and his Legio of demon-dragons. Narciss’s Harpy henchmen have other ideas, however.

Your Children's Story and the Message

  By Karen Cioffi, Children's Writer I get a lot of clients who want to tell children something through a book. These people want to sen...