Thursday, September 20, 2007

Six Part Series: Street Signs and Plot Humps

There seem to be two slanting points of view when it comes to how much planning and preparation writers should take before beginning their novel. Some are firmly in the "Seat of the Pants" category. These writers start writing and enjoy the adventure of finding out what will happen right along side their characters. The "Planners" however, can only begin when they have a firm idea of their destination and at least a rough sketch of their road map to get them there.

In the following six part series I'll discuss the various pros and cons of both techniques, offer tips on a few of the 'dead ends' seat-of-the-pants writers come upon, point out ways seat-of-the-pants writing can give depth regardless of your preferred technique, share advice for planners with plot humps and explain the close and dangerous rim between the 'random messenger' and the suspension of disbelief.

Part One: Are you a Pantser or a Planner?
Which one are you? Do you write character profiles? Do you struggle to find a title? Do you know what your protagonist’s story-worthy problem is? Try this quiz find out if you are a "Seat of the Pants" writer or a "Plot Planner".

Part Two: Seat of the Pants vs. Planning
Deciding which strategy will work best for you is something you can only discover through trial and error. I lead a seat of the pants kind of life and yet wander about in a maze of insecurity when I try to write this way. Others need order and routine in their lives but the freedom and suspense of the unknown in their writing. Both techniques have their pros and cons and every writer tends to customize their technique to suit their personal preferences and lifestyle.

Part Three: Street Signs For 'Seat of the Pants' Writers
One of the downfalls of the "Seat of the Pants" technique is the myriad of dead ends, round-abouts, cul-de-sacs, and no through roads. Navigating the streets of your novel without a map can be scary. It can even lead your novel straight to the garbage tip. Sometimes you'll need to follow the street signs, or at least find them along the way to make sure you’re still on course.

Part Four: When Wrong Turns Go Right
Part of the interesting benefit of "Seat of the Pants" writing is the wrong turn that goes very, very right. The excitement and adventure of the journey through your novel is often what many writers find most appealing and stumbling upon a detour or feeling like you've made a wrong turn can cause writers to slam on the breaks or shift into reverse. But what if that wrong turn, is a short cut to the real treasure, and an even better destination?

Part Five: Plot Humps For Planners
"The best laid plans of mice and men…" It’s a famous quote and seems very closely tied with Murphy’s Law. When you’ve laid out your map carefully and you’ve followed your directions exactly why do you keep slamming against that pot hole? It’s a plot hump, and all planners come across them, it’s time to learn to be flexible and take a note out of the wrong turns guide for "Seat of the Pants" writers.

Part Six: Mr. Random Messenger Meets Suspend-able Disbelief
One nasty enemy of the "Seat of the Pants" writer is "Mr. Random Messenger". He’s the exploding volcano that sinks your enemies battleship just as they were about to blow you out of the water, or the assassin who took out that bothersome official who was barring your search warrant, or the anonymous lead that puts your squad in the right warehouse on the right dock at the right time. If it doesn’t make sense in the greater scheme of your story then the suspension of disbelief just went down the toilet.

I have to give my sincere thanks to Anne! Her comment/suggestion (September 16, 2007) sparked my interest and while I’m personally firmly in the "Planner" camp I hope these entries offer Anne (and all my readers) some useful strategies for dealing with problems when using your own writing styles.

Stay tuned for "Part One: Are you a Pantser or a Planner?" available Saturday 22nd of September 2007.

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Anonymous Anne said...

Hey! Wish I'd come here first before the post I just put up! Same subject, LITE.

This is kind of funny. I'm a pantser, so that's what I did on the post. You're a plotter, and you're doing an in-depth, six part series. I think that's wonderful. I can learn a lot from you.

Thank you for doing this. I look forward to every entry.

Great job, too!

12:55 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

Actually, I'm glad you didn't stop by here first, my entry might have changed your own and I really enjoyed reading yours. :-) Of course, you might want to subscribe so you never miss an update. ;-)

You might be surprised; you're not as much a Pantser as you think you are. I'm also not strictly a Planner. There are shades of inbetween that tend to work much better than being firmly in one court or the other.

I'm looking forward to hearing your answers to Saturday's quiz. *grins*

7:15 AM  

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