It’s a question we writers ask each other a lot – are you a plotter, that is, do you know the details and progression of your story before you write it? Are all your duckies in a row before you even write a single word? Or are you a pantser – writing by the seat of your pants with no idea of what’s going to happen at the end?
Me? I’m a plotter. I tried pantsing once – not really my thing. (And apart from that, the word makes me feel a little bit dirty… I’m not sure why…)
But, what I have found, now that I’m on to my third novel, is that I plot at the start, then plot again after the first draft.
I call this process Post-Draft Plotting. I know. Brilliant.
You see, the story changes so much over the writing, the original plot is very different from the plot of the finished first draft. So I go through that first draft with a bunch of sticky notes and a pen, and note down each scene. Some chapters have one scene, others have three or four. A scene might be a conversation between two people, or a critical action in the story. It might be a lightbulb moment. Or it could be the dark moment. Or, it might just be a moment to catch your breath.
When I write them all down, then stick them all out on a big sheet of paper, I start to see where scenes might be better in a different place in the story, where scenes might not be needed at all and can be deleted, and where there are holes in the flow of the story. I look at time passing, seasons changing, people growing. Where necessary I jot down notes on the sticky notes about all those things. I make sure my story runs smooth – even though the path of true love might not always run that way!
Some people draw up mind maps or diagrams for their plotting, but as you can see, I’m not one of those people! Mine are always square and the only drawings are asterisks or circled letters and numbers. I wonder what that says about me? Self-contained? Methodical? Just plain old boring?? Never let it be said! I used four different coloured pens on that plot. Four!
Once the second plot is done, I have another quick look at the original plot and, if there are any juicy details that I completely missed the first time around (yes, it happens), I can slot them in to the new plot just by drawing up another sticky note.
Then, armed with the new plot, I start the exciting job of vigorously and ruthlessly editing my first draft into something I might consider handing to a beta reader or an editor.
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