Friday, September 26, 2014

To Plot or Not to Plot

I used to plot-to-death. Then, I was a pantser. But now you may address me as part of the converted --- I'm a bit of both.

The trick is discovering what works best for you. There are endless plotting methods to play with (Hero's Journey; Save the Cat; Story Engineering; 3 Act Structure; and so on) or mash 'em up to create your own perfect plan.

When I saw Larry Brooks at the 2013 Willamette Writer's Conference, I loved his presentation "Fix Your Novel with One More Draft". Then a year later my friend loaned me her book, Story Engineering (by none other than Larry Brooks). I totally connected with it. No new concepts (as he even says himself), but for some reason taking the time to plot finally clicked.

So, I decided to take what I learned, along with what already worked for me, and apply it to my short story "The Doom of Wonder Bread." It was the best writing experience I've ever had...from idea to acceptance. And not once did I ever dread going back to my draft. I actually had to force myself not to touch it while waiting on critique feedback. Sure, it was sometimes hard, but it was never complicated.

For those that are curious, the entire process for my 6000 word middle grade sci-fi story lasted two and a half months. I found out about the 2014 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide in early June and spent ~ two weeks brainstorming ideas. Once I had a concept and theme and knew my main character, I started to write.

Tweeking Larry Brooks' story structure, I outlined my first plot point, decided how I wanted my story to end, and then backed into my midpoint and second plot point. Three weeks later, I had a clean first draft that I submitted to my critique group. A week later I received feedback and completed a second draft in two weeks (a scene cut, two scenes added, but the same plot). Another round of critiques and one final revision done in a week.

Then the best part: I submitted to Dreaming Robot Press on a Thursday, received an acceptance email the following Monday.

So there's something to be said about the right amount of plotting (just enough so you know where you're going), with the right mix of pantsing (to let the story show you how to get there). But the most important thing, enjoy the process.

plotter, pantser, whatever...just write!

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