About Plotting

picard-writingI don’t talk about writing on here as much as I thought I might when I started this blog. There are reasons for this…

  1. They’re not my most popular posts. 
  2. I’m not sure anyone really cares when I talk about my writing in vague terms.
  3. I haven’t been writing much lately because of blogging.

I don’t regret blogging, as it has taught me a lot, it helps me find great books, and encourages me to keep finding and reading great books. I’ve also met some people I really like along the way! But I do need to do better with balancing my fiction writing and my blog writing. I think one of my greatest struggles is what Captain Picard hits on in that picture up there… I need to plot first.

I really want to be a “pantser.” I get so many exciting ideas for writing, and snippets of a story will just flash through my mind like a movie trailer. I sit down and try to encapsulate everything I just saw. I can write about the characters, a beginning, a few random scenes, but then I have no idea where to go, because I won’t sit down for an hour or however long it takes (probably longer) to plot the story out. I can’t seem to go forward with at least SOME direction.

What makes it worse for me is I have literally DOZENS of ideas, and I think most of them are actually really good. Recently, I decided I actually want to connect several of my ideas and make it one great big post-war (sorta dystopia but not entirely) universe. But it would involve a LOT of books. I can’t even imagine writing so many books in the same universe and it all being cohesive and good. The thought intimidates me. Instead of taking it book by book, chapter by chapter, I just freeze up. And I don’t want to be that way.

So, if you have any thoughts about plotting while writing or encouragement for me to not be terrified of big ideas, I’d love to hear them! And if you’re not a writer, do you have any suggestions based off of books you read as to how I might could attempt a big story arc involving many years and multiple characters?  

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26 thoughts on “About Plotting

  1. Don’t be afraid of outlining! I think it gets a really bad rap, because most envision the Roman numerals and lowercase letter format we were forced to adopt in school. I think of outlining as my first draft — I get all the bugs worked out in the outlining stage (Or try to, anyway), which saves loads of time in the revision stage and helps me actually finish a piece! A great resource I highly recommend: Outlining Your Novel, by KM Weiland.

    • In school when I had to turn in an outline with my paper, I wrote the paper first and then did the outline. I was good at writing a paper along the way, but a novel is certainly another beast and I do need to get over my outlining fear. Thanks for the book rec; I’ll have to check it out!

  2. I’m very much a discovery writer (or “pantser”). I had the major event in my novel planned out and then just started writing it. I had a beginning I really liked and am up to chapter 10 now. Truly a discovery writer I keep surprising myself with what happens as I write and am enjoying the process greatly.

    My ending is narrowed to a few possibilities. It most likely will not be Disneyish at all but just which ending I go with really will depend on where the story takes me as I approach those final chapters.

    I also get struck by the ideas all the time that I want to write. What I found is a great release is to just start writing a flash fiction piece on them and get them out of my head. I did that with a few of them and they came out pretty well with some good feedback I received. All under 1000 words and just a quick scene.

    )I’d love more writing posts too btw.)

    Anthony

    • I definitely love the excitement of discovery writing, but sadly I usually can’t even get to chapter 10 with it. But when I do try to plot, I certainly still leave some room for discovery. The flash fiction idea is interesting; I might have to try that!

      • I find the flash fiction a good release. Also good practice. getting feedback on the little stories are motivational as well for continuing to work through my novel.

        You can read them here if you like: Anthony Russo on ReadWave : http://www.readwave.com/anthony.russo/

        I even had someone create two of them as little audiobooks of 2 1/2 minutes and 4 minutes in length. That was a lot of fun to hear my words as an audio book

        AnthonyRusso10’s stream on SoundCloud – Hear the world’s sounds : https://soundcloud.com/anthonyrusso10

        In the end it is all about enjoying the process to me. I’d love to make millions and have millions read my stories, but I am enjoying writing so much that even if nobody reads my novel, I’ll have no regrets.

        Anthony

  3. I can see how you would find it difficult to plot a whole story O_O I mean, thinking up one event is pretty easy, but stringing the one event with events that follow/lead up to it would take a lot of brain power. But I believe in you, Amy! From what I have read of your blog, you are a great writer. I can’t really give you any expert advice (I’m not a writer), but I think that if you just scribble down all your ideas, you will be able to put everything together more easily…

    *cheers Amy on*

    • Awww thanks, I appreciate the encouragement! 😀 I really need to sit down and flesh out more of the ideas I have instead of being so afraid of getting everything perfect right off the bat.

  4. I wish I could contribute more, but I don’t have enough experience, really. I’ve read/heard from so many authors and writers discussing their writing strategies. My sister insists that she can’t plot (as many others can relate). Then others like Marissa Meyer make these elaborate, extensive plot outlines!

    Me? I dunno. I’m still stuck in the “collect ideas and maybe even snippets of paragraphs” (but mostly in my head) phase. Like, this might sound weird, but most of the time I can’t even figure out how to start writing, even though I have some rather fleshed-out ideas in my mind. o_o

    • Starting is so hard! Especially if you’re trying to write an awesome opening sentence. You just kind of have to go though and polish it later. But, easier said than done for sure! I read Marissa Meyer’s blog post about her outline process and wow it’s hardcore!

  5. Noooo don’t freeze up! You have to write those books, because I want to read them! 😉

    Really I don’t have advice or help to offer because I’m not a writer myself. I know people say to plot/outline/whatever, but I also know that certain planning methods don’t work the same for everyone. If plotting for whatever reason isn’t working out for you, I’m sure there’s something that will. Unfortunately you won’t know until you find it. >_<

    • Awww, thanks Leanne! It means a lot to me when people tell me that they want to read what I write! It’s just frustrating to try many methods over the years and still not know what works best! It’s just hard work no matter what, but if writing was easy everyone would do it I suppose.

      • You’re welcome!

        Even though I’m not a writer, I do read about constant struggles writers go through pretty often. It seems like most don’t have any one thing that works really well for them, and just let the story take them wherever it wants to go. They just have to sit down and plug away until they figure out where it’s going as well. It does sound very frustrating! But having read so many fantastic books from authors that seem to have all these difficulties writing… it makes the effort look so worth it.

  6. I do outline a bit, but my outline tends to shift constantly as I write. I never force myself to stick to it, per se, especially not if the new ideas and directions are an improvement over the originals OR if I just really like the way the story is going. For me, the prospect of not having ANY idea where my story is going is really scary so I try to at least have a starting point and an idea of where I want things to end up in the long run. What I do the most of is world building, it’s seriously like my favorite hobby (aside from reading!) and I get so caught up in it sometimes that I do more of that than actual writing! Anyway, don’t be afraid to outline. Outlines don’t have to be permanent and they can be as vague/flexible/detailed as you want.

    I hope you try to write your big series of books! Later on, you may discover that it can be fewer books or that you can do without certain parts. You never know until you try! So do it! Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? A bunch of us bloggers who are planning to participate are getting a support group together so we can cheer each other on! And if you ever need a writing buddy, I’m here for you! 🙂

    • I’m definitely all about a flexible outline, because it’s true so much just pops up while you’re writing, and I don’t want to lose any of that goodness!

      I’m really thinking about doing NaNoWriMo this year, and I have ever have before, so if I do, a support group would definitely be great!

  7. Hmmm…. I’ve never been into writing really, but once or twice I’ve tried starting my own book– and once or twice have I failed, and miserably so. I’m not very good when it comes to outlining my thoughts before putting them to paper, so I just have all these ideas that pour forth and never seem to make sense and connect to each other once they’ve been written down. So I guess when it comes to plotting, I’m a failure D: but when it comes to writing posts on the blog, I just try to list down all of my ideas first then use them as reference when actually writing the content. Sometimes, I tend to go overboard with my thoughts, and stray from my main point, but I just ignore that and complete the post first, before tweaking bits and pieces as I proofread. I guess this could work in terms of writing a certain chapter of a book, but then again I haven’t exactly completed one of my own and felt satisfied with it 😦 But anyway, great discussion 😀 Hope you sort things out soon too!

    • Writing a book is a long, dedicated process, whether someone chooses to outline first or write on the fly. Most of my posts I sit down and write on the fly, and I wish I could do the same with the stories in my head, but a well-crafted book takes time. Anyhow, thanks for the encouragement!

  8. I have a similar problem: when I’m blogging, I’m not WRITING. I need to find some balance to. As to the matter of getting something down, I heard recently of a successful crime writer who used to make himself “write his way into a fresh scene” before he allowed himself his first cup of coffee in the morning. This would never work for me as I don’t drink coffee, but it does almost sound like a reason to start, right? lol. Maybe it will work for you?

  9. I’m a writer (or an aspiring one, at least), and I used to be the same. Well, I would jot down notes whenever I got inspiration, and try to elaborate and expand my idea from there, but that’s it. Call me lazy, but I never did any outlining at all, except for write a short blurb which basically recapped all that I wanted to happen in a book. I know. It wasn’t until just a couple of months ago that a good writing friend told me that outlining worked wonders, so I started outlining every single chapter, which helped a lot.

    And *high five*! You’re not alone in combining several different ideas together, though my problem isn’t as big or complicated as yours sounds, heh. One suggestion, though, is to not make all the ideas you have into something big and part of the main plot, if I’m making sense. Turn them into smaller things, not altogether less important, but make them so that they don’t take over the entire book. I think that would help to minimize the size of your universe, and help you cope with all the ideas as well! It might be hard to minimize ideas (no, that’s an understatement – it’s painful!), but just look for the ones that don’t seem as “important” as the others, and try to turn those in sub-plots. Then again, having too many sub-plots might cause other problems, but in the long run, I think it would work out better than just trying to write everything and make them all seem part of the main plot.

    Hope this helped (it probably didn’t, because I just came up with all this just now, heh), and all the best in your writing endeavors! 🙂

    • Awww thanks for the encouragement! Yes, so outlining every chapter… I actually did this one with one book and it worked out pretty well (as in, I actually wrote it, which was amazing!), but now of course I am really rethinking that whole story, especially how it all works in the larger universe I am trying to plan. I like your idea of minimizing ideas somewhat, and I have actually been thinking over the past few days that some of the my ideas could probably be supporting novellas instead of novels. The problem with all my ideas, however, is that they each come with their own new set of characters, as it seems impossible for me to separate the two. In fact, I usually come up with characters first and then “their story” just comes to me. So I think this might be the biggest issue in all this… Because cutting characters… that really is the worst…

  10. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to plot a whole book. If I were a writer I would probably write as you do, some random scenes and then I’d try to put them together. Only in my case I would probably figure out that the scenes are from a book I’ve read but forgot about. I always do that, you know. I start to tell my friends a story about my other friend and when I finish I realize it’s actually from a book. Woops. I think I went a long way from the point of your post, but it’s a great one! :p

  11. I’m not a writer so I can’t really identify or offer advise. Step by step, do a bit every day is all I can offer. I would love to read posts about your writing though, I’d love to hear about how it’s all going and even reading about this challenge is really interesting to me. I feel like I’m peeking over the fence 🙂

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